PLOT: After his niece is kidnapped, a vampire killing priest disobeys the church to save her. On his journey he finds himself fighting the murderous vamps that had supposedly been extinct thanks to his own kind. As he get closer to saving his flesh and blood, secrets are revealed and blood is sprayed until the final battle to save an innocent girl and all of humanity.
Screen Gems once again paints the future in dark blue hues and a dismal vision of what is to come. In many ways, PRIEST feels right at home with the UNDERWORLD series. And truth be told, if you are not a fan of the first Underworld, you most likely will not appreciate the gothic atmosphere of their latest vampire saga. Shockingly enough, while Priest may not feel all that original, it can sure be entertaining.
For starters, Paul Bettany seems to be right at home as the stoic hero in Priest, the film version of the Korean manga comic book. Although be warned, if you are a fan of the book, this is a different animal all together, but it is still beastly. This genre blending feature is part western, part gothic horror, part revenge action thriller and part martial arts fantasy. And while it doesn’t always succeed thanks to it's ultra serious tone, it features enough action to thrill fans of this sort of flick.
After an all out war between vampires and men, the church creates a group of men and women with the gift of battle to destroy the undead. After the war is over, this same church creates a sort of Orwellian nightmare where humans are protected from the supposed extinct vampires. Yet deep in the shadows it seems the beasts are still waiting, and those in charge are very aware of it. When one of the most powerful priest’s (Bettany) niece, Lucy Pace (Lily Collins) is kidnapped and her parents killed, he is told that there is nothing he can do to save her. Thus, he disobeys their orders and along with a local sheriff by the name of Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the two leave the safety of the church’s dark Utopian to find the missing girl.
As good as Bettany is here, it was nice to see Gigandet as the wholesome sheriff who follows along. With what little characterization there is in something like this, both the mysterious priest and the old-fashioned cowboy make for a unique mix. That would include the clever influence from the Italian era of westerns that roams through this Wild, Wild West. And when you add the martial arts and mysticism that the priests are privy to, it makes for an engaging blend of action and horror. When both the priest and Hicks are joined by Maggie Q – a priestess sent to hunt the priest down - the camaraderie between the actors is absolutely delightful with its B-movie charm.
What about the vamps themselves? These are certainly not the kind of vampires that will sparkle or get all romantic on you. The snarling, vicious CG monsters are on all fours while doggedly chasing down their enemies. These vamps are sort of a cross breed of werewolf and Syfy Channel monster, with a little bit of THE DESCENT for good measure. They travel in packs and man can you hear them coming when they are on the attack. The use of sound as the ground shakes when the baddies come a calling adds to the suspense, which there is a surprisingly good amount of here.
Sure there is very little that is original here. The story of a rogue priest trying to save his kidnapped niece in the old west is awfully familiar. Yet with a strong hero (thanks to Bettany) and an entertaining supporting cast including Maggie Q, Cam Gigandet, Brad Dourif and Christopher Plummer there is certainly enough for a fun matinee at the movies.
As far as villains go, the drooling dog like vampires were nothing compared to Karl Urban as a one-time priest. When he and his creatures of the night descend upon a small town, he begins to “conduct” the horror creating his own symphony of destruction. It is an over-the-top enjoyable moment and it adds to what may be the most fun I’ve had at a fiery brimstone, western, vampire, fantasy, action, horror film. I guess you could call it a guilty pleasure.
As much fun as it can be, there is so much packed into its short running time that some may feel overwhelmed by the final reel. This is a damn quick film folks – some of you may even be thankful for that. And it is absolutely hard to take any of this too seriously, even when it treads on a serious subject, such as a big, bad church controlling many. Decisions are made by characters much too quickly and bonds are tied faster than you can say vampire. It would be nice to see the director’s cut add some of the “meat” that may be missing from the finished product.
Priest fit the mood and offered up enough of an entertaining surprise that you might even have fun. If you aren’t in the mood to count mistakes and find yourself annoyed at the audacity of this over caffeinated action/horror flick, you might want to avoid by any means necessary. If you are a fan of “Alice” and find yourself thrilled by “Selene,” then this is the kind of fluff that is worth taking a gander at. And of course the big question is, is the 3D worth it? Well, once again it is unnecessary, but it is a little better suited for Priest than the recent big-budget flick THOR. Priest is a much too serious vampire flick that shows enough fangs to make up for the PG-13 rating, here is hoping we see more on Blu-ray. If you dig this kind of thing, you'll have a bloody good time with Bettany kicking vampire ass.
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