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===FILM ONLY REVIEW===
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Running time: 87 minutes
Directed by: Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet
Certificate rating: 12A
Tagline: "The War is Eternal. His Mission is Just the Beginning."
Description: A legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.
In this future world vampires were an evil force that have been fought and defeated by warrior Priests trained to serve The Church, which has replaced politicians and monarchs and become the overbearing ruler of the remaining cities. This quick history lesson is depicted in a short but stylish animated sequence which features plenty of battles and bloodshed. However, it seems that not all of the vampires have been culled, as they target Priest's family who live outside safety of the city walls and his niece goes missing. I only got a light feeling of the dystopian society that was trying to be portrayed here, and to be honest I don't think The Church seemed powerful enough. There are a few attempts made to make the point clear, with the memorable line: "To go against The Church is to go against God", but Priest himself has such a strong character that I feel he definitely makes The Church look weak in comparison when he goes against their orders in search of his missing niece.
Priest, played by Paul Bettany is joined on his mission by a Sheriff, played by Cam Gigandet. I thought that the Sheriff character seems boyish and unprepared compared with the experience and control shown by the Priest. Cam Gigandet seems a poor casting choice as he has a typical pleasant Hollywood appearance and I would have preferred the Sheriff to be gritter and more developed. What I would call a "gunslinger". In fact as soon as the villain, played by Karl Urban, shows up on the scene I realised that it was exactly how I wanted the Sheriff to look, and they probably chose to style the characters in this way so you can tell at a quick glance that the clean-cut one with a suntan and a little leather bomber jacket is the good guy, and the one with the long(ish) hair, grizzled weather-beaten appearance and long leather trench coat is the bad guy! Most of the performances are contrived and uninspiring, in particular the female characters do not fare well and come across as lacking in depth. The only credible performance was that of Priest himself, who came across as perfectly suited to the role and portrayed his emotions in a believable manner without giving much away or having a clichéd feel like the other characters.
Being a dedicated fan of horror and science-fiction, I have a particular passion for monster movies. One thing that fascinates me about monsters is the theory behind them; the myth and lore surrounding their existence. I was hugely curious about the vampire breed in Priest, as they are shown to be a completely difference race from humans, and there are several hybrids along with various different types of vampire based on a hive structure hierarchy. This aspect of the film is something that really intrigued me and I thought that the ideas were really interesting and quite different to other depictions of vampires, although I could draw one or two parallels with other movies. The graphic design and computer animation for the vampires is of a seriously high quality and they look frighteningly real with authentic looking flesh textures and movements brought to life through the CGI.
Priest is based on a graphic novel, and although I've not read this I thought I could pick up on some of the influences with action featuring heavily throughout the story. The action is fast paced and neatly choreographed with lots of aerial action and showy moves. The driving force of the plot - man must fight bad things to find missing relative - plods along feeling tired and predictable, even though a few twists and turns are thrown in along the way to try and shake it up before arriving at a suitable conclusion. Unfortunately the plot does not have a lot of depth to it, but the action scenes are exciting and frequent enough to balance it out so that I didn't lose interest. I must give credit where it's due, and the crew are fully deserving of praise for their efforts. The costume designers and wardrobe department have done a fantastic job with their futuristic aesthetic. The set designers have done some stunning work, with clear references to sci-fi classics like Bladerunner, and the grimy hustling bustling city contrasts beautifully with the dry and dusty wastelands left to fall ruin outside. The prop makers have built some kickass cool weapons that are sleek, deadly and unique. Camerawork, lighting, special effects and post-production have all come together to give a flawless visual experience and for what the film lacks in personality, it makes up for with its good looks.
Overall I felt that there was just something lacking from this film which stopped me from fully enjoying it. Despite some beautiful settings and impressive action scenes, the film had a lack of atmosphere and none of the performances were memorable aside from Paul Bettany as the lead Priest. I can recommend it if you want to pass the time by watching something with nice effects and a simple storyline, but it's certainly nowhere near good enough to be a must-see.
**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
[This review is for the 3D Blu-Ray edition]
Priest is a science-fiction vampire movie, set in an alternate future, where mankind has been fighting with vampires for generations. With the church and religion as a foundation for their society, mankind develop a sect of warriors imaginatively named 'Priests', who manage to destroy the vampires in a war, resulting in many of the Priests becoming retired. It is only when the threat of vampires rears its ugly head that society realises that they need their protectors again.
The first thing that comes to mind when watching Priest is how similar the setting looks to Mega City One from the Judge Dredd comics. I guess there's not too much room for individuality when it comes to massive fenced-in post-apocalyptic cities surrounded by radioactive deserts, but I did keep thinking how cool it would be if Judge Dredd just showed up, which is ironic since Karl Urban (who is set to star as Judge Dredd in the new motion picture) was in the film as the lead villain.
The film opens up with a visually striking two-minute animation which depicts the history of the Priests and their subsequent retirement, forced to take menial tasks in an effort to fit in with the society they protected and who now fears them. This animation looked amazing in the 3D Blu-Ray version that I watched, with added depth and clarity given to the usually flat animated style. I find that animation tends to fare better with the 3D transfer, but the actual live action scenes were also effective in 3D. There were several moments where ash flew towards the screen and almost felt like it was in my bedroom! Sony's 3D effects seem to be the best I've experienced, as this along with Monster House, have been very effective.
Paul Bettany stars as the un-named Priest, taking up yet another religious role after his appearances in The Da Vinci Code & Legion. He doesn't seem to inject his character with any real charm or personality, preferring to stare broodingly and mutter at his companions. I quite liked Cam Gigandet as Hicks, who seemed to provide the viewers point of view to the foreign world of the Priests.
My biggest complaint of the movie was the setting - the initial ten minutes or so were in the dense, futuristic metropolis which would have made a visually stunning location for vampire battles, but the locale is quickly shifted to the desert and underground hives, which didn't seem as atmospheric to me. I think more could have been done about the hierarchy of the human society and the class structure between the Priests, the Monsignors and the general public. It just seemed to descend too quickly into a standard post-apocalyptic monster movie, without any real subtext.
I haven't read the original manga series upon which the film is based, so I am unsure just how close to the source material this adaptation has been, but it seems like this initial movie was crafted to open the door for a potential sequel. Hopefully, a sequel would expand upon this universe with the religious order ruling the people and craft a more interesting movie, set within the city walls.
Overall, this wasn't a bad film, but it seemed to lack any real spark, with a less-than-charismatic leading character, whose uniqueness was summed down to a cross-shaped tattoo on his face. Other than that, he was a fairly standard monosyllabic action hero, who wouldn't stick in the audience's memory for that long after seeing the film, but for those wanting to watch a 3D movie on your home cinema system couldn't go wrong by choosing this for a fun night in.
[Also posted on Ciao.co.uk & my blog]
"Priest" is a 2011 American Science Fiction action film directed by Scott Charles Stewart and starring Paul Bettany, Karl Urban and Cam Gigandet.
The Plot: ( Contains some spoilers )
The story is set in an alternate universe that had a war spanning centuries that pitted vampires against humans. Once the church trained super warriors called priests the war was ended and humans reigned supreme and under the rule of the church in a post apocalyptic future that vaguely resembles the old west. Now out of a job, Priests find themselves outcasts of society.
It isn't long into the film that an army of vampires appear on the scene and kidnap Priest's ( Paul Bettany ) daughter and hold her hostage ( we find out its his daughter later in the movie, but early on you just kind of know!! ) . The church is unwilling to believe that vampires exist free leaving the Priest no option than to turn his back on his faith and go on a solo mission to rescue his daughter.
Priest is a very brisk 88 minute movie. There was just enough dialog in the movie to piece it together. I think that works to the movie's advantage because most of the audience that is going to view this film is looking for action. The few scenes of dialog that is left within the movie are not that good. The main character of Priest, played by Paul Bettany, tries his best to remove any human emotion from his voice by talking low and using the fewest number of words as possible. Why do the Priests have to lose their personalities to become warriors? Just because you swear an oath of celibacy to fight for the church doesn't mean you have to act like your dead. I am guessing it may be just for the simple attempt to make the character cool. Regardless, it doesn't add much to the personality story.
The real problem I had with Priest is that it seemed more interested in being cool than it was in being good. None of the characters had any personality whatsoever. What's more, none of them had character arcs. The characters are unchanged from the start of the movie to the end of the movie. None of the actors looked like they had fun with their roles. The whole movie seemed like forced labor. So while it did have the obligatory action scenes throughout it, they all felt staged, nothing really flowed. Some of the shots were interesting, but I never felt much excitement.
The opening of Priest features an animated sequence that quickly goes over the history of this universe, and I can't help thinking that perhaps the real movie lies in there, its really well done and very slickly animated, Instead, we are whisked past all of the epic battles against the vampires to save our species and brought to a dreary aftermath of the war. In short the stakes are much higher in the two minute set up of the film then the other 86 minutes. It is clear that the film makers were hoping to start a franchise, but unless they do prequels I am not sure anyone will have much interest in seeing the continuing adventures of these characters. Guys looking for cheap action and little story might have fun with this movie, but that is about all it has to offer.
Following the disappointing near disaster that was Legion, the director-actor pairing of Scott Charles Stewart and Paul Bettany seemed to be presenting yet another overly dark and broody fantasy action film with Priest. Billed as futuristic and promising an hour and a half or so of top action, it was a worry that the trailer was about as good as it was going to get.
The premise is rather simple, and indeed simplicity seems to be one of the biggest traits of the film. Bettany plays a Priest, one of many religious warriors who were despatched by The Church to defend the humans against vampires. The prologue sets the scene rather well, explaining in a somewhat hurried fashion that the Priests had banished the vampires and that the world was now a safe if morose place to live in. When Priest's niece is kidnapped by vampires, Hicks (Cam Gigandet), who loves her, comes to Priest and, defying The Church's insistence that the vampires have been wiped out and the world is safe, they set off to find her.
The graphics and special effects are very well done for the most part. The vampirical elements and some of the monster graphics are impressive and stay in your mind for quite a while afterwards, while the acting is sufficiently sullen and broody for the most part. Everything seems rather simple, and this is one of the better traits of the film, keeping everything at a level that is easy to understand and doesn't overcomplicate things. All too often, something new will come out of the woodwork for Hollywood to try and mould to its particular taste, and it is often the case that it becomes lost on both critics and audiences alike, overdoing things and not appealing to enough people. Priest, though, keeps it simple enough and makes sure that everything is explained, either by a voiceover or by conversations and visuals within the film's flow.
But quite typically again, the simplicity also serves as its downfall. What the film lacks in complication leaves a bit of a hole that should have been filled with more action and impressive choreography and effects. Instead, there are a few tricks missed, such as Christopher Plummer's reduced support role as the head of The Church, a role that has expansion written all over it but is barely used throughout the film. Similarly underused is Maggie Q's Priestess, who seems to be there to support things towards the end of the film rather than as a full fixture. There are some impressive fight scenes from the Priests, and Karl Urban provides some strong work as the villain of the piece.
I'm never sure about Paul Bettany. He has had some excellent roles that he has filled brilliantly, but also has been rather wet, the strong and silent type not always working, such as in Legion. However, this works excellently and his turn as Priest is very good indeed. Gigandet turns in a wet performance as a sidekick promising great things but ultimately being rather rubbish with his fighting skills, despite professing to be a master shot and actually falling well short of Priest's standards. But again, it fits with the style and simplicity of the film.
The religious and futuristic elements of the film are rather typical: dark and dystopian. The Church is viewed as a warrior and peacekeeper authority whose claims form the basis for their power, while Hollywood's obsession with the future being a dark and post-apocalyptic place are getting a bit boring to be honest. There are hardly any colours included in the film, and I think that they would have done well to bring some in, even if they were just within the walls of the huge metropolis like city they all exist in.
But it's worth a watch, and flows very well. Despite the obvious flaws that aren't really covered up and the general feeling of simplicity and a can't be bothered attitude towards them, this is simple film presentation. There's scope for a sequel, and if this happens then they would benefit from developing some of the underused areas, and maybe packing some more action into its short running time. At a shade under 90 minutes long, this could have been extended slightly to incorporate some more explanation and development of the aspects I have mentioned. As it stands though, what there is ends up being entertaining up, and worth a watch if you get the chance.
Every once in a while we need films like "Priest." A film that is so ridiculous and absurd yet so much fun, an incredibly short and concise ride (this doesn't even pass the 90-minute mark) of sci-fi action and comic-book like atmosphere, moving at a head-spinning rapid pace, hardly any need for deep, meaningful dialogue, and with anchored performances from a cast who is obviously far too talented to be a part of a film such as this one. There is however one slight cause for concern - this is the second feature directed by Scott Charles Stewart, whose previous effort includes the absolutely disastrous "Legion," an apocalyptic picture with a tacky, flimsy religious back story. Another bit of similarity - Paul Bettany stars in the lead role for both films. Set in yet another futuristic world, this time with demented vampires instead of zombie-angels, "Priest" does seem to be heading down the same worrying path as "Legion."
But fear not, because "Priest" turns out to be a more than watchable affair, with enough slick and stylish action scenes to keep us gripped during its key moments. With a brief, chaotic prologue in which Priest (Bettany) fails to rescue his fellow soldier in arms, Black Hat (Karl Urban) from a group of swarming vampires in an ambush attack, we learn that humans have been battling vampires for a long time. Mankind was fighting a losing battle until the priests intervened. Specially trained by The Church (their version of the Catholic Church), their extraordinary power and speed managed to finally overpower the evil race, and under the protection of The Church, humanity was at peace once more. With the threat of vampires gone, priests were no longer needed and their group was therefore disbanded, with the warriors fading into obscurity.
The "safe" barricaded city is one heck of a depressing place. There is this incomprehensible obsession with Hollywood that tries to turn the future into this gritty and grim place with constant rain and creaky, metallic monorails with dodgy looking electrical sparks spreading that make the entire infrastructure look as if it is ready to collapse any minute. Priest is haunted by nightmares - or more specifically the flashback of the brutal ambush that took place. One day he hears his niece has been kidnapped in a vampire attack that left her parents murdered. The head of The Church Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) vehemently denies the existence of vampires and insists the city if 100% safe. "To go against The Church is to go against God" - is the kind of nonsense they spew whenever their authority is challenged. Since when do people of the future suddenly become stupid? But Priest is not interested in following orders anymore. Family comes first - he ventures out of the gated city on his awesome, high-speed moped, and in doing so goes directly against The Church's direct orders.
Joining his quest are Hicks (Cam Gigandet) and Priestess (Maggie Q), who is also defying orders since she was really sent to hunt down the rebellious Priest. Hicks has a romantic interest to the kidnapped niece, and his big-mouthed, cocky attitude is not easy to warm up to, especially when despite all his confidence he has to be rescued by Priest every single time. He looks pathetic, even though he is so convinced that his shooting skills are top-class. Priestess however, turns out to be a more useful asset as she can take care of herself and has some smooth moves that are choreographed and integrated well to match Priest's fighting style. Her character is a tad underused, which is a shame, especially given Maggie Q's surprising range of versatility on screen. Priestess is secretly in love with Priest, despite The Church's strict prohibition on romance for their soldiers. There is one particularly effective scene in which Priestess attempts to warm up to him, and declares how much has already been taken away from them. Q is marvelous at the one scene in the film that actually requires some depth and emotions.
Bettany's moody, intense and consistent serious expressions are well kept throughout, no matter how silly the turn of events may be. Some of its lazy, clunky and quite frankly unnecessary dialogue is an insult to just how much talent this actor has, but he tries to make the most of its limited original material. Since the director seems more interested in pushing the film along to its ending, sudden scene jumps are a common occurrence, with a lack of careful editing to make the film feel as a whole, coherent product. Within minutes the master-plan of its villain is figured out by the three lead characters in the most formulaic, step-by-step manner, with a counter-plan put together and executed in the next few seconds.
Acting as both the strength and weakness of the film, the simple, logic-free, plot-hole-ridden, painfully predictable plot at least serves up some decent action for us to admire. The problem is there could have been more and we could have been more astonished by the finely directed fight sequences. They build up more towards the end, and when it counts, the three actors pull them off flawlessly. With a variety of creative deadly gadgets these vampire hunters use so elegantly, even for those short periods, you will find yourselves completely absorbed. But because of its incessant careless attention to details and its tendency to ignore certain interesting characters for far too long (most notably Q's Priestess and Plummer's head of The Church who could have been a lot more vicious and played a much bigger role), "Priest" is full of small ideas that never fully develop in the end. Adding 20 minutes or so wouldn't have made the film unbearable only would have enriched the experience.
It's certainly an improvement from "Legion." And it appears the Bettany-Stewart pairing is really not all that bad and deserves another chance. A lot is left loose in the final scene, setting up for a possible sequel - but since both the critical and financial receptions were less than stellar, the chance for a sequel is highly unlikely. But it would be a shame to dismiss this film entirely, since there are in fact some good ideas and characters in there. With more blood, nasty weapons and intense, scarier scenes, the "Priest" franchise has a fighting chance. It's also a shame that by trying to create more income, a last-minute, shoddy conversation to 3D was added. And again, the blurry, eye-hurting effects don't do a whole lot of good. The villain is at his most derivative which does suck a lot of fun and potential out of this mish-mash of genres. To go the extra mile and to smell more tickets and critics, it would be advisable for Stewart to think outside the box a little more, and to use his assets more according to the range of talent he has on offer.