Movie Review: Priest

So I had planned to see this opening night and pretend I was a real movie critic by coming out with a review close to the opening weekend, but it turned out my girlfriend really wanted to see it and made me wait until last night.  She is really into vampires, which is something of a mixed blessing as it sometimes lets me see great films and sometimes has me watching pretty boy vampires sparkle in the daylight while I look for a spoon to gouge my eyes out.  (Twilight sucks.  Sparkle vampire image courtesy of the novelty t shirt category).

So, Priest, in 3D (not really by choice, but it was my only option).  This is not one of the great vampire movies, but it is also not eye-gougingly bad either.  It sits, like 99.9999% of the movies I have reviewed since Paul, right on average.  It’s like all of Hollywood has hitched up to the mediocrity train and is steaming towards Bland Junction.

The Priest story comes to us from a Korean graphic novel by Hyung Min-woo.  It’s good to know their geek culture encompasses something besides Starcraft.  The movie Priest, however, comes to us from the Road Warrior, Blade Runner, Dark City, Blade II, and a Fist Full of Dollars with a sprinkling of Star Wars for flavor.  It borrows unabashedly from these and about 1,000 other movies and forces them into a arguably decent rehash, or perhaps new to younger kids.

Speaking of younger kids, let me tangent off a bit here and bitch about the fact that the family in front on us had a little boy with them who was somewhere between 2 and 3 years old.  The movie was rated PG-13 for a good reason and at times drifted close to R in terms of gore and violence.  The vampires would have given me nightmares at 12, to say nothing of 2.  My dad took us all to see Orca the Killer Whale at the drive in when I was 8 and that pretty much ruined the ocean for me for the next five years.  Seems like most parents I wouldn’t trust with a pet rock, much less a child.

OK, off my parenting soap box and onto my movie reviewing soap box.  Priest is set in an alternative world (every other reviewer or whatever likes to say post-Apocalyptic, but the opening credits clearly showed both Medieval and WWI humans fighting vampire armies, so I refuse to imagine this is set in our world.  Also, our world has some terrain) that is apparently flat and featureless as a billiard ball wherein humans and vampires have fought for thousands of years and more or less destroyed the planet, except for a Blade Runner-esque steam punk city where everyone dresses like an escapee from the Great Hot Topic Massacre.  The city has for some reason purposely blocked out the sunlight, which is established as the humans only real defense against vampires (???).  Paul Bettany plays a Priest, a Catholic Church super ninja who had his Ash Wednesday cross tattooed onto his face.  His brother, who appears to be living on a farm that literally produces dust, is mortally wounded by a vampire attack and his niece is kidnapped.  Priest needs to go back out into the wilds to rescue her and kill the vampires, but the head of the church, who I will refer to as Monseigneur Stupid, decides that, in spite of the fact that vampires were not killed off completely but reside peacefully on reservations (sucking on rat blood, I guess) and he loses absolutely nothing by letting Priest go off and get himself killed, there is no way the attack could have been vampires and forbids Priest to go.  He goes anyway on his super ninja electric/solar motorcycle that can exceed 200mph on dirt and hooks up with the local sheriff who told him about the vamp attack.

Anyway, some other Priests are sent after him for no real reason except for the insult the first Priest gave unto the Church, including the new love of my life, Maggie Q.  A bad guy in Western drag named Black Hat (possibly for some article of clothing he was wearing, but I can’t be sure) is involved.  Vampire hunter hijinks ensues.  Vampires and innocent humans get killed.  Stuff blows up.  Deep dark secrets are revealed.  The fuze is lit for a sequel.

Anyway, the stars.  The animated opening credits were really cool.  One star.  In spite of the limited material handed them by the dialogue, all the main characters delivered a pretty good performance.  Paul Bettany was especially good.  One star.  The steam punk city and Gothic costumes were pretty cool.  One star.  The action sequences were decent and made sense (obviously they hired a fight choreography).  One star.  Except for the attitude of Monseigneur Stupid, the story was reasonably linear and more or less didn’t strain my brain.  One star.  The CGI was well done but not over used.  One star.  Overall the visuals were good.  One star.  Total: Seven stars.

Now the black hole.  The dialogue was limited.  One black hole.  The whole movie was extremely derivative.  One black hole.  Some of the action sequences strained my suspension of disbelief enough to give it a hernia (sorry, but no one can survive jumping off a motorcycle at 200+mph).  One black hole.  After 10 minutes in a cool, semi modern dark Gothic city, they then spent the rest of the movie in a much cheaper to shoot open flat wasteland with NO TERRAIN FEATURES WHATSOEVER.  It was like they filmed most of the movie in a giant parking lot.  One black hole.  During the course of the movie they kept hinting at some kind of character development that never surfaced.  I can’t help but feel they could have added a lot to the film by exploring deeper the relationship between Priest and Black Hat, or even Priest and the female Priest.  One black hole.  Total: five black holes.

Also, like I did in my Fast Five review, I have a few things that bugged me but really aren’t worthy of a black hole.  First off, the movie was only 88 minutes.  I don’t feel like the pacing really suffered for being short, which is why this doesn’t get them a black hole,  but if I am going to pay $10 for a movie ticket I want to feel I am getting a decent value.  Remember all that missing character development I gave you a black hole for?  Maybe sticking a few minutes of that into this movie might have made my wallet feel better.  Also, I can honestly say I feel ripped off for paying an extra $4 for 3D.  The 3D did absolutely nothing to enhance the film and was hardly noticeable, at least until my usual 3D headache started to kick in.

So, a total of 2 stars.  Not bad, not great.  If you are a fan of Blade style action see it on a big screen.  Don’t waste your money on 3D.  I think overall it’s worth seeing in a theater, as a lot of the visuals and action may suffer on a smaller screen.

That’s it.  I have an idea for something funny for tomorrow so check back.  Have a great day.

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