Actor Paul Bettany can’t seem to catch a break, especially in regards to the projects he picks. His latest film, Priest, mirrors his last film Legion, no coincidence considering their both directed by the same man Scott Charles Stewart. Unfortunately, Stewart hasn’t improved as a director, instead relying on a few cool action set pieces and trying to propel a story with so many overt political messages it’s enough to make you dizzy.
In a world where vampires have supposedly been eradicated by the Church, a priest (Bettany) goes on a mission to reclaim his niece from a group of vampires. The Church though feels vampires have been destroyed and sic three other priests, including a Priestess (Maggie Q) to get Priest back dead or alive. Along with Priest on his journey is a small-town Sheriff named Hicks (Cam Gigandet) who loves Priest’s niece.
There’s little to recommend this film considering it’s a re-hash of Legion with a dash of the color scheme of Daybreakers. The film had some good action including the final motorcycle fight between Priestess and some bikers, and the opening vampire attack on the niece Lucy (Lily Collins) was fun. Sadly, these elements don’t make you feel you got enough bang for your buck, especially if you paid to see it in 3D.
I skipped the 3D element thankfully because Priest is a bore! If you saw Legion then about 90 percent the story is here, a rouge religious entity goes on a mission to save a young girl! In this case the villains are vampires and the Catholic Church (I’m assuming Catholic considering the priest angle but it’s never overtly stated what denomination it is). It’s blatant what director Stewart is trying to convey in this film: that organized religions and government in general dispense useless advice to keep us confined, but if it didn’t work in one movie why put it in another? The vampires themselves also look as convincing as the demons in Legion and that’s not saying much. Considering how far we’ve come in SFX it’s surprising to see such lackluster vampires. The two romances are contrived, especially the one between Priest and Priestess, and by the end the film concludes with such a big push for a sequel it’s ridiculous. When the story doesn’t rely on hatred for the Church it tries to throw in some big surprises that you’ll see coming from a mile away. Case in point is Priest’s relationship to Lucy, its obvious their not niece and uncle but the film tries to include the big twist during an action piece that never comes together. It’s obvious to the audience so why break up the action with a lackluster surprise? The movie feels at times like two different films, a vampire film and a dystopian drama, neither of which ever feels thrilling or dramatic.
To add insult to injury is how the majority of the actors sleepwalk through their roles. Bettany just pulls out the same lifeless, monotone performance from Legion which isn’t surprising since the characters are the same. Bettany can handle the action but he has lost the spark that he used to bring to his roles. Cam Gigandet plays the same loveable hero but here he just throws stuff around and says a lot of exposition. Maggie Q kicks ass at times but again, monotone. It seems that the actors were just told to spit out their lines in one tone of voice and leave it at that. The only actor I enjoyed seeing was Karl Urban as the villain Black Hat, and even then he isn’t given nearly enough screen time or depth to make his character rise above the others.
Overall, Priest is a disappointment from beginning to end. If you want to see it just rent Legion and go from there because the movie never gels or has anything to recommend it. The performances are just as dull as the story which beats you over the head with a quasi-religious condemnation. Either way a film about vampires shows that their not always necessary when the material is this bad.