Friday, May 13, 2011

Priest (2011): An Action Sci-Fi Movie You Can Safely Skip

Priest is the second feature of director Scott Charles Stewart and his second collaboration with Paul Bettany after Legion. Priest is a movie that mixes post-apocalyptic sci-fi, western and the vampire genres and it is based on some Korean graphic novel series of the same name.

The premise of Priest is quite straightforward and cliched and is told in an animated intro (apparently the filmmakers were running on a tight budget). There was a war going on between humans and vampires raging for ages. Humans won the war after their super warrior-monks (a.k.a priests) defeated the vampires. At the time of the movie, vampires live in reservations, humans are closed in cities (think Judge Dredd) and governed by the Church. The order of the priests is disbanded and only a few of them have survived. Vampires in this universe are non-human hive creatures, the only feature distinguishing them from any generic stock monsters being the slaves they occasionally keep to feed on their blood.

The cast of Priest features some heavyweight names. We have Paul Bettany (as the priest), Maggie Q, Karl Urban and a small role for Christopher Plummer. A role of the kind that makes you wonder why they would need an actor of that caliber to play it. Oh well, maybe he lost a bet or owed someone a favor. Or he got some large bills to pay. Anyway, Paul Bettany is pretty much the only redeeming feature of this movie as the lean protagonist. Of course, it is not really an achievement of the film and, more specifically, the script. It is just that Paul Bettany is cool as an action hero. And that was the case with Legion too, so no surprise here.

Considering the director's visual effects background one can expect lots of CGI in Priest and this is indeed the case. Creatures and environment designs are not very inspired, though. There is an overall impression of derivativeness. The movie sports a bleached and contrasty look. Not unlike The Book of Eli in that regard. And, incidentally, Priest was shot by the same cinematographer, long time Robert Zemeckis' director of photography Don Burgess.

To give Priest some credit, the short length of the movie leads to some fast paced story development. But this is brought down by predictable narrative, zero character development, some embarassingly cheap drama (admittedly, a little less compared to Legion) and cliched action sequences. Dull and forgettable. The humorless dialogue doesn't help, either. The 3D is another disappointment. Priest is one of these movies shot in 2D and post-converted to 3D and this shows.

To sum it up: you should probably skip Priest, unless you are a fan of the genre(s). And if you decide to see it, go for the 2D version (if available in your area).

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