Reviewed by: David Simpson
|Featuring:||Paul Bettany … Priest
Karl Urban … Black Hat
Cam Gigandet … Hicks
Maggie Q … Priestess
Lily Collins … Lucy Pace
Brad Dourif … Salesman
Stephen Moyer … Owen Pace
Christopher Plummer … Monsignor Orelas
Alan Dale … Monsignor Chamberlain
Mädchen Amick … Shannon Pace
Jacob Hopkins … Boy
|Director:||Scott Charles Stewart|
Michael De Luca Productions
Stars Road Entertainment
|Distributor:||Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Entertainment|
“The war is eternal. His mission is just the beginning.”
In a post-apocalyptic world, there has been a war raging for centuries. Humans and vampires have been fighting for control of the Earth, with the powerful human force being the Roman Catholic-style Church. They have created protected and highly fortified cities for people to live in peace. To combat the vampire threat, the Church trains Priests, dedicated super warriors complete with powers and vampire killing weapons, and set them out to destroy all traces of their enemy. With that done, the priests are decommissioned, and ordered to never again seek violence against the vampires.
Sounds like a familiar sci-fi thriller plot right? Wait for this part. Paul Bettany (“Legion,” “Creation”) plays Priest, the most gifted (naturally), warrior the Church ever created. Haunted by his past, and motivated by the abduction of his niece, Priest disobeys the word of the Church to go in search of her. In partnership with a local town sheriff (Cam Gigandet), and his former co-warrior Priestess (where do they get their names from?), played by Maggie Q (“Mission: Impossible 3,” “Nikita” TV series), they set out to bring the kidnappers down.
Now, you may have picked up a slightly sarcastic and cynical tone by this point. You would be right. There is very little I can compliment “Priest” on. However, here’s what to watch out for. There are two versions of this movie—a PG-13 and an R-rated version. You will most likely find the lower rated one, and I would stick with that, as you’ll have plenty to cringe at with that copy alone.
Language: There is one f-word (there almost always is in PG-13s), and it’s spoken stupidly out of context by the Sheriff to give him some emotional conviction that he otherwise doesn’t have. There is a scattering of other minor profanities that are mainly reactionary expletives.
Sex/Nudity: This would be one of the positives I found. I kept waiting to see unnecessary cleavage, or a passionate kiss in the middle of a battle climax. It didn’t happen. Other than a couple tender moments shared between Priest and Priestess, this all relates to the knowledge of their working history. Priestess does wear a tight leather catsuit-style outfit. It is not revealing, just shapely.
Violence: This is my area of caution. I had to check halfway through whether I was watching the R-rated version or not. There are decapitations, slicings, hackings, stabbings and shootings with a various array of weapons. Be aware that not only are the vampires of quite a scary nature (I would liken them more to alien monsters than the vampires from “Underworld” or “Van Helsing”). Despite them being CGI creations, the film’s producers escaped an R rating by cutting out the amount of blood that was shown, and dumbing down the graphic details of each violent act. However, this is a violent and unforgiving movie, with disturbing offscreen moments where the bloodcurdling screams of a child’s parents are heard as they are dismantled. I could give you greater individual specifics, but this borders on a slasher flick at times without actually seeing the gore. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant on all levels.
As we saw with director Scott Stewart’s previous work “Legion,” this film features Biblical/Christian themes. Whereas I found Legion’s attack on the angel armies, and of God himself, very offensive, “Priest” focuses more on the manipulation and control the Roman Catholic-type Church has on its people.
“To go against the Church, is to go against God.”
This is the phrase you will hear more times than you care to in the opening 30 minutes. Not only does it speak of a dictatorship-style authority, it’s also untrue of the true Church. To liken the true body of Christ to God, and to blatantly state that we as the Church liken our authority to God’s is wrong. Over the last 24 hours, I’ve argued to myself that the Church is the enemy in “Priest,” and therefore it’s showing us how the Church should behave. With this angle, that’s a completely correct theory. The responsibility of the true Church is to seek after Christ, have a personal relationship with Him, and do His work. Priest is the hero, and his actions of going against the Church are justified by his care for the young lady who is kidnapped. In the same way, we have to make choices based on our convictions that come from God. These do conflict occasionally with governmental law.
I believe you can take it either way you want. You can draw positives out of the story, or you can be offended. I want the Church to be the good guys, I want them to be honorable and upright, so it hurt my heart when I saw the Church authority abusing their power.
There is one more positive I want to point out. Priest refuses to hook up with Priestess. His memories of his wife haven’t vanished since he was taken away from her to become a priest. He stands true to that and doesn’t come close to giving in to his feelings. Priestess respects that, and continues to support him out of respect. These decisions are very rarely seen in Hollywood films, and I applaud that.
Technically, there are many flaws. It’s poorly written. Not one part of the script will stand out apart from the oft-repeated, “To go against the Church, is to go against God,” which is hardly the thing you want pounded into your head. I enjoy Paul Bettany, he has talent and conviction in his performances. This is not deep enough for him though, and so the other performances really fall flat. Cam Gigandet (of “Twilight” fame), is particularly wooden. His face literally doesn’t change from his first scene to his last.
The movie is heavily CGI-ed. The vampires are unconvincing, and we are confronted with vampire hybrid storylines again. How many more humans have the individual ability to turn into half vampire and half something else? It’s been done so many times before, and it’s now officially old and stale.
Overall, what I’m saying is that you can make your own mind up with the morality of the whole Church vs. Man storyline. As far as a technical movie goes, it’s shockingly bad. There’s nothing to enjoy, nothing to cheer, nothing to get you wanting something to happen for the sake of the characters. It’s shallow and empty.
If you enjoy science-fiction thriller movies, I encourage you to stay away from this one. If you’re looking for a film to show positive messages, I also advise you to stay away from this. There are better options out there.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Moderate—“G*d-damn” (1), “hell” (3), “damn” (1), SOB (1), f-word (1), s-word (1) / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
“…‘Priest’ follows the current Hollywood vogue for geek-friendly, comic-inspired genre mash-ups, chucking elements of western, horror and sci-fi into its overheated pot. It’s predictably effects-heavy, and while the CG elements are a little more solid and inventive here than in, say, ‘Sucker Punch’ or ‘Jonah Hex’, the blurry 3D transfer serves to scupper any sense of visual spectacle. …”
—Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
“…Not exactly an unholy mess, but still a rather too pious retread of classic sci-fi/action/horror riffs that lacks originality or pizzazz, ‘Priest’ won’t strike much awe in anyone. …”
—Leslie Felperin, Variety
“…It moves at a lick, but is instantly forgettable. ‘Better’ than ‘Legion,’ in that it doesn’t run to unintentional laughs, it’s marginally less entertaining. On the strength of this duo, the Bettany-Stewart teaming will never threaten Wayne-Ford in the pantheon.” [2/5]
—Kim Newman, Empire [UK]
“…‘Priest’ is one of the best examples of a broad-scale vampire blockbuster. … at its bloody, undead heart, ‘Priest’ is an action movie… And for his target audience of gore-loving ghouls, Stewart emphasizes—wisely if disappointingly—the gooey visceral payoffs.” [3/5]
—Todd Gilchrist, Boxoffice Magazine