Priest (2011): Out now on DVD&Bluray
(12A) Running time: 86 minutes
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Writers: Cory Goodman, Hyung Min-woo
Starring: Paul Bettany, Maggie Q, Cam Gigandet, Karl Urban
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Priest is a one of those films that actually makes you feel sorry for all those involved. The cast are given very little to play with, and the film, for want of a better word, is crap. The point which makes you feel sorry rather than feel angry, is because there is clearly a good film trying to get out here, but it can’t. Director Scott Charles Stewart has been involved mostly in creating visual effects for other films, and after making his debut feature length film, Legion (also starring Bettany), here he takes on a much bigger challenge. Legion, I have to say, was a better film. Here, Stewart just feels ever so slightly out of his depth. Based on the graphic novel written by Hyung Min-woo, the film should have been great, and it had the budget to make it great, but something went wrong.
Paul Bettany plays a Priest, but here Priests have a history of battling with Vampires and keeping the human race safe. Priests are highly skilled fighters, but sadly since the war between Priest and Vampire has finished, the Priests have been told to keep a low profile and never use their skills. The paper thin plot see’s Priest’s niece taken by Vampires, lead by someone from the Priests past, and Priests brother Hicks begs for his help to get her back. There are two or three twists in the tale, but they won’t exactly shock you, and to be honest, you may not even realise they have happened. Asking the higher powers of the Church if he can use his skills, Priest is told he musn’t, but he goes against every rule and heads off out into the apocalyptic lands to get his niece back, with Brother by his side.
The film feels rushed, badly edited and the script is absolutely dire. Considering the amount of action, the film felt like it was on slow motion, with superb fight scenes and action sequences ruined by lack of talent in producing it. The director clearly has a keen eye for how to shoot an action scene, and his use of camera shows off some superb skill, but it just isn’t held together properly and any impact is lost by simply bad editing. The parts intbetween fights are hardly gripping, and this too is a real shame because Bettany plays his part magnificently and you really want to get to know him better. Sadly the script does not allow it, and he just drifts through the film, commanding the screen but not really doing much. Maggie Q joins the fun as an assassin out to kill the Priest because he turned his back on the Church and went off searching for his niece. She too is an interesting character not really given much depth. However, she does play a big part in some wonderful action scenes which, in the hands of a better director, would have been terrific.
Another element to the film which is actually very cool, is the Vampires themselves. They are more like monsters, and we even get blessed with half human half Vampire hybrids who guard the Vampires. Everything about this film could, and should have been great but it just fails miserably on pretty much every level. A boring, dragging, lifeless movie which, as I said, should have been much much better. A sad, wasted opportunity.