Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Priest

I was on the Paul Bettany bandwagon for a little bit.  He had a nice run with A Knight’sTaleA Beautiful MindMaster and Commander, and Wimbledon.  Those were movies with varying degrees of merit and success, but Bettany usually stood out as a solid performer.  His career seemed to get derailed with The Da Vinci Code and this launched a long string on unremarkable performances in mediocre films.  To me, the best work he has done in the past six years is as the voice of Jarvis in the Iron Man and The Avengers films.  So I really expected very little when I sat down to watch Priest – a movie that’s been sitting on my Netflix queue for months.  Despite these diminished expectations, I still found the movie to be incredibly underwhelming.

The premise of film rests on a war between humans and vampires for control of a post apocalyptic Earth where a special order of Priests is the key weapon against the blood sucking fiends from beyond.  So when Karl Uban’s Black Hat leads the vampires in a revolt against humankind, Paul Bettany’s Priest is forced out of retirement to spring into action.

Besides a few recognizable names, everything in this movie feels 2nd and 3rd rate.  There’s not anything inherently wrong with that as there are a slew of B-level movies that are incredibly entertaining, however that kind of success is born from a willingness on the part of the cast and crew to bask in the inherent shortcomings of such a project.  In Priest, the production value feels like a bunch of cinematic concessions executed by individuals going through the motions and that makes it difficult to emotionally invest in a fanciful narrative when the performers themselves don’t seem fully vested.

As the lead, relatively little is asked of Paul Bettany beyond reprising the visual appearance of his character from the Da Vinci Code.  His lines are sparse and much of the physical action in the movie is provided by stunt doubles and computer graphics engineers.  Still Bettany manages to deliver a performance that is completely void of any charisma and while some of this is due to the nature of the character, at the heart of any good story there must be a protagonist that the viewer can empathize with and this, he fails to provide.

As for his supporting cast, Karl Urban (Star Trek) as Black Hat is plain boring.  This is a disappointing turn as Urban has shown himself to be a strong participant in a number of action movies.  There’s just not a lot of meat on the bones of this role, but Urban does nothing to compensate for this shortcoming.  Likewise, Maggie Q as the priestess, Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) as Lucy Pace, and Cam Gigandet as a green sheriff, are utterly drab in their respective portrayals of paper-thin characters and fail to add any entertainment value to the film.  And as for how they got Christopher Plummer to appear in this movie, I have no idea.  Needless to say, not even he is able to rise above the morass.

So in the end, what you get with this movie is exactly what you would expect from the one-sheet or DVD cover - lots of darkness, guns, knives, and church iconography.  And what you don’t get from Priest is also exactly what you probably expected not to get – which is a good movie.  Obviously I do not recommend this movie as a rental or on television, unless you are incredibly bored and the only other options staring you in the face are Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or Sex and the City 2.  In that case, you have my blessing to proceed.

Standout Performance: None.  


  1. Thanks for reviewing Priest. I went online and picked Priest from Blockbuster @Home before I left my office at DISH last night. It was ready to watch when I got home. I don’t know that I would be as hard on it as you would, but it was pretty bad. There may not have been a lot of depth to this film, but the action was pretty solid. Don’t run out and buy it but if you can stream Priest its worth it.