Sunday, June 26, 2011

PRIEST (2011) - Review

From the purgatory of pointless movie ideas comes the graphic novel adaptation "Priest". This stale blend of dystopic sci-fi and western has very few things going for it. If you've watched at least one of the trailers for this movie, and it instantly brought back memories of other better movies, you are very close to the essence of "Priest".

The movie starts out with an animated narration that sums up the backstory. It tells of a war between humans and vampires (without explaining exactly where the vampires came from) and how in an effort to turn the tide of this war, the Church trained a special breed of warriors, called Priests. They ended the war, after which they were disbanded by the Church. One of these soldiers of faith is the hero of this movie, played by Paul Bettany. He doesn't have a name. Everyone refers to him simply as Priest. That's how badass he is. He finds out that his brother and his family were attacked by vampires in the wastelands, even though all the vampires are supposedly locked in a fortress-like reservation. Although the Church orders him to stand down, he ignores all warnings and chooses the path of an outcast in order to further investigate the vicious attack. Arriving in the wastelands he discovers that his niece was taken alive by the vampires and that a new menace threatens the fragile state of peace in which humanity lives. The battle is on. And it's all in God awful 3D.

Despite some attractive art direction that blends the look and feel of hi-tech movies like"Blade Runner" with typical old-school western set designs, despite decent visual effects and a story that has, at the very least, some B-flick potential, the movie seems curiously soulless. All the 3D gimmickry is too in your face and the rarefied dialogue and thin plot do nothing to make the movie worthwhile. Bettany makes for a convincing action hero. The movie, however, squanders his potential and has him looking cold faced and dropping one-liners. It's a shame.

Maggie Q is also pretty much wasted here as a fellow priestess. She does get to kick some ass, but the fight sequences are so badly edited that you just don't get the required excitement. I hate how the fights are shot in close-ups and feel so clumsily edited. "The Matrix" set a standard in shooting and editing a fight, with martial arts scenes that flowed very naturally. Here it's all disjointed and confusing. The action scenes are featured in short bursts, ending before you even get the feel of it all. The third act feels rushed and should have contained a little more bang for my buck. Clocking at about 80 minutes, the movie is way too short for all the talking that takes place. Obviously, it's all terribly uneven.

"Priest" is a wasted opportunity. A cool enough premise, with some competent aesthetics, but not much else. Still, you should see director Scott Charles Stewart's other movie, "Legion", starring Bettany as a gun-totting archangel. That one was hilariously bad. At least this one sort of looks good. Overall, though, "Priest" is one movie that you can safely skip. You won't miss a thing.

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