Once again my tastes are a little out of step with other film critics. My 2.5 out of 4 stars rating of the movie “Priest” is well above the average ratings at Metacritic, RottenTomatoes and IMDB. But as I’ve written before, variety is the spice of life; different strokes for different folks.
“Priest,” directed by Scott Charles Stewart (“Legion”) is a post-apocalyptic vampire western based on the gothic horror manhwa (Korean comic) of the same name created by Min-Woo Hyung. The movie’s screenplay was written by relative newcomer Cory Goodman. I have not read the comics, so I cannot vouch for how much or little the film resembles the source material.
The Priest about whom the movie is titled is a warrior bred by society to kill the blind and powerful vampires which prey on humanity. After many years of war, the vampires are in hiding, so much so that society believes there is no longer a vampire menace. The Church rules with a strong fist in this dark future, and its leaders tell people the vampire problem is no more. But at a remote outpost, it seems the vampires have attacked again–and a teenage girl has been kidnapped. The sheriff from the outpost (Cam Gigandet) solicits the Priest for help. The Priest (portrayed with effective swagger and mysticism by Paul Bettany) defies the wishes of the Church and joins forces with the sheriff to defeat the vamps and rescue the girl. The supporting cast includes Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif and Christopher Plummer. There’s also a small performance from Stephen Moyer of “True Blood” fame.
The story of “Priest” is linear. There’s nothing complicated here and virtually no character development. But I think the simplicity works to the film’s advantage. This is straight-forward story-telling, much like enjoyable Hollywood westerns from the past. There are good guys, bad guys, more bad guys, outposts, a sheriff, a renegade hero, a mission to rescue a young girl and an attempt to prevent a further, greater disaster. In fact, our hero acts and talks a bit like Clint Eastwood.
The movie clocks in at an efficient 87 minutes. Overall “Priest” is directed at a very brisk pace. No nonsense. The movie begins by jumping right into the action, followed by an animated montage which explains the background and setting. The music and sound are effective, as are the dramatic camera work and decent special effects. I also enjoyed the art direction and design of the film’s future world. The filmmakers have demonstrated that they know what they are doing.
Although I loved the movie, I understand “Priest” may not appeal to everyone. It’s not perfect, and its simplicity may disappoint some viewers. I would have also prefered at least one more fight scene. But as a lower tier popcorn thriller, it fares well. “Priest” is just what I’d expect from a post-apocalyptic horror western: action, fun, thrills and mood.
Rating 2.5 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated PG-13, 87 minutes, Action, Horror, Sci-Fi