4 Stars for “Priest”

Priest, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, is set in an alternate world — one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who 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.   – Written by Screen Gems

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Say what you will about this movie, but it has two things in it that I really enjoy in movies: fantastic imagery – in both the sense of huge/grand/epic and in the sense of awesomeness – and Paul Bettany. The special effects in this movie are very well done, and look like they were taken straight out of the Korean graphic novel of the same name (full disclosure: I haven’t read it, and because of the differences between it and the movie, I doubt I will).

One thing I really liked was how the filmmakers set up the opening (paraphrasing):

Here is what is known: There have always been humans. There have always been vampires. And there has always been war.

The intro goes on from there to explain about the vampires, which are natural creatures in this story, and their eternal war with the humans, through the use of animated scenes that are very reminiscent of The Animatrix. Still, very well done and enjoyable.

I remember the first time I saw Bettany, in the 2001 medieval comedy A Knight’s Tale as the irrepressible Geoffrey Chaucer.  His performance has stuck with me for the last ten years, and I can still quote almost word-for-word his speech at the end.

“For I would lay rest the grace in my tongue, and speak plain. Days like these are far too rare for heavy-handed words. And so, I’m afraid without any ado whatsoever…”

In Priest, he does an excellent job translating the character from the graphic novel to the big screen. His faith is as obvious as his torment at breaking his vows to do what’s right. He is a master of the priesthood’s peculiar form of martial arts, and uses it to devastating effect. Bettany is, in my opinion, particularly adept at portraying emotion, and it’s clear from his portrayal here exactly what sort of toll is taken on him by the church, by the situation, and not the least by his vows of celibacy. Which, given that his love interest is Maggie Q (Nikita), he can hardly be blamed for.

Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, RED) turns in a stellar performance as – no joke – Black Hat, a former priest who is now set against Bettany’s character for the fate of the city. Evil, bad-ass, and just plain creepy, Urban does a great job here, as usual. Other actors of note (and there are plenty), include Brad Dourif (who will always be Piter de Vries to me), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Christopher Plummer, Alan Dale (Lost) and the beautiful Mädchen Amick (Californication).

As interesting as the movie was, it was also a little predictable and just a hair clichéd. That’s hard to avoid these days, given the sheer number of movies made, but the main reason I docked the movie a star was that it just never quite got to the “this is freaking sweet” point. It hovered right on the edge, but stalled. Still, a great movie and one I would buy if I saw it for a decent price.

2016-10-26T19:04:29+00:00

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