I had high hopes for Priest. As a series of manhwa comics, it made for a very enjoyable read and could easily have been turned into a great movie, or even a series of movies. Alas, this loosely-based effort by director Scott Stewart fails to deliver.
Here we see Stewart once again teaming up with Paul Bettany, again in the lead role as was the case with their previous film Legion. Bettany stars here as Priest, one of an elite group of warriors set out by humanity to take on the threat set out by an infestation of vampires which has spanned many centuries. It is these warriors who do, initially, defeat and kill the vampires and are afterward no longer needed and shunned by society.
The order of priests, now long forgotten, have been disbanded by the Clergy, who fear what they created, and now run their cities in a totalitarian manner. Outside the confines of the city where Priest lives, his niece is kidnapped by a band of vampires, and so against the Clergy’s wishes, Priest sets out to save her from the vampires before she is turned into one of them.
Bettany does well in playing the subdued Priest, while showing a wicked side with violence when it needs to be shown. The script lets him down, with cheesey lines about violence consuming him being more than a little annoying.
Joining Bettany is Karl Urban as the notorious Black Hat, the man behind everything and the main antagonist of the story. Really it is him that steals the show, as he seems to be having fun with the role. There is one scene with Black Hat acting as a conductor to the explosions happening all around him, and I couldn’t help but smile at the future Judge Dredd acting so coy.
This being said, I am not sure if there was that much of a show to be stolen. The film seems to throw as much information form its comic source as it can in the short 1 hour 27 minute run time, and as a result it leaves a lot unsaid and holes in the story. Other than that, I wasn’t expecting much from the acting in what is, on paper, a horror film. But Preist’s sidekick, played by Cam Gigandet, has less acting talent than my bedside locker. Clearly, the man was thrown into the film for the teen demographic, hoping his previous work in Twilight (a film I promised never to mention in a review, and yet have done so in my first) would draw in a bit more of a crowd.
Now, the film wasn’t all bad. As I said, Urban was enough for me to see this film, and the animation sequence at the start of the film, displaying the war between humaity and the vampires, and how the order of priests came about is nothing but breathtaking. It’s a pity that this level of both structure and intrigue could not be kept.