by Bret Dorman
Its easy to see how a movie like Priest got made. Its based on a comic series. Great. I’ve actually read a little bit of the series by Min-Woo Hyung and it bears little resemblance to what I saw on the big screen. No big deal. So the movie stray from the source material a bit. I have absolutely no problem with that. What I have a problem with, is that what they did, all around, sucks hard.
Okay. Here’s the thing. Director Scott Charles Stewart Directed last years sort of ‘Christiantiy’ themed ‘actioner’ Legion. And that movie sucked balls. Priest basically has a better script in terms of dialogue and pacing for ‘action scenes’ but even that is like comparing constipation to diarrhea. They both involve shit. Only Priest has more riding because its potential for awesomeness is higher.
The script is filled with characters putting emphasis on one liners that aren’t even dramatic. If one character asks, “What did you have for lunch?” the other character will pause, turn slowly, pause, look up, pause, look away, pause, look back, pause, take a deep breath, pause, and mumble… “A sandwich…” That’s about as exciting as the entire movie gets.
And you’ll notice above I mention the ‘action’ in the scene in single quote marks. That’s becasuse I hate to call anything in this movie ‘action’. The first ‘action’ scene sets up the revenge plot for the entire movie and its about 5 seconds long. Later a character flashbacks to it and the flashback is done though quick cuts and glimpses as if to shorten the first scene but there’s nothing to shorten. Its amazing how many scenes take place with ‘action’ happening that don’t actually show it.
And since when did Paul Bettany become a big action star? I think he could probably be effectively used (by any other director) as a villain in a movie but not a main hero. He has to try WAY to hard to be badass. It comes off as way to pretend. If this were like a mistaken Identity movie and Paul Bettany was just some normal dude who found himself in some action scenes I might believe it. But he has a real hard time trying to make anything in this movie work because its not meant for him and he’s not good for the movie.
And his kind of sidekick, Cam Gigandet as some Sheriff, looks like he is 12 years old. He plays everything too intensely and his character’s big thing is that he loves the girl who was kidnapped. By the way, if I were that girl (Lily Collins) I would be PISSED because after her first scene, the entire rest of her scenes make her look super unattractive. But anyway the Sheriff loves this girl for whatever reason and The Priest says he is going to kill her if she is a vampire. And he gets mad! And whines and cries and even threatens The Priest! And then the Priest tries to have a cool scene where he talks some sense into him and they become BFFs and later in his big daring rescue he gets thrown from the train and does absolutely nothing. What a fucking pansy. And this is an action movie! Where the supposedly cool characters do nothing.
My big problem in terms of tone is that this movie takes itself way too seriously and doesn’t even come close to being badass or cool or having a noteworthy action scene (the one shot from the preview is the only good one, where he hits two vamps then gets tackled by one and its in one shot. 87 minutes for ONE SHOT that’s noteworthy).
And you could argue “It’s so bad its good” but no! No! Don’t give me that shit. In a world were we have movie like Grindhouse (More specifically Planet Terror), Hobo With a Shotgun, and Pirhana 3D, there is no reason why a movie should be THIS bad when its not trying to be.
The vampire design was sort of decent in concept but they were portrayed more like Aliens than vampires. Which would be alright if they had some cool scenes or moments. At one point the badguy reveals to the main Priest that they were going into that first 5 second set up scene to kill ‘the queen’ and its very jarring. Like… “Queen? What? Since when do vampires have Queens?” (Not counting Queen of the Damned) They could have done a better job building the mythology of the vamps.
Finally before Spoilers! I will say the one good moment was the backstory that was animated. The movie should have been all that. It was really violent and well animated. Fit the tone of the graphic novel perfectly and could have been fun. Then we went back to the live action crap.
Spoilers! aka everything specific about why this movie sucks ass balls.
Example: In one big action sequence though another Priest tries to fight the main villain guy and does a bunch of fancy martial arts stuff and Urban just hits him and then he is dead (its like that scene in Indiana Jones only not funny or cool). Then you don’t even get to see him fight the other two!
As I mentioned the retard Sheriff guy gets thrown from the train. Then he gets on a motorcycle and drives to catch up. Then the train blows up and he stops! He stops and gives a dramatic look, then just keeps driving! I mean this man was prepared to spend the rest of his life with a possible vampire woman and take on a Priest. He said he let his lady down once and that he would never let anything happen to her again. Then he lets her get blown up in a fucking train! And he stops! If my lady friend had just gotten blown up in a train I would go full throttle even faster to make sure she is okay. But of course she was okay.
The other sheriff moment I want to point out is when the Priest tells him about Point A and Point B. Then after the VERY anticlimactic super monster vamp fight scene Paul Bettany kills the vamp or whatever and its deadbut surprise it comes up for one last scare! and bang! it falls back down. Reveal.. sheriff! “Point A meets Point Fuckin B!” or whatever. Really? Like the next action scene your going to use that? And it doesn’t even work for being badass because the actor can’t pull it off. and why waste an F-Bomb in a PG13 movie on that line and that character? Fuck that.
At one moment the Priest is riding his future motorcycle. Its the first motorcycle scene (among MANY) in the movie and he is just driving and driving. The music SWELLS for no reason and makes this out to be one of the most dramatic and important scenes in the movie. And then the Priest hits Nitro?! What? And its supposed to be intense and cool but there’s no one chasing him and no real ticking time bomb element has been set up in the movie yet… so fucking retarded…
Speaking of ticking time bomb… That one part where they find the other three dead Priests and then put the pieces of the puzzle together that the bad guy is on the train… the main Priest says “We don’t have much time, we’re going to need every minute” or something yet they spend about 10 or 15 minutes goofing off and not in any sort of rush to save the city whatsoever.
Also the movie is filled with moments like the Priests praying before they fight and shit which is supposed to be cool. The moment where he opens the bible to read then flips those cross-shuriken out was supposed to be cool. But it just wasn’t. And I’m all for playing up the ‘Christianity’ element. I really am. It could be so cool. BUT then when the one Priest goes to ‘bury’ the others he just burns their bodies?! He gives them a viking funeral as opposed to a Christian burial? Fuck this shit.
Lastly my BIGGEST complaint is that the church tells the Priest not to go out and fight vampires because they don’t want people to think they don’t have control? So instead of letting Bettany go fight the vampires and possibly making some sort of hero story out of him (which Bettany would have begrudgingly complied with I’m sure) they tell him NO! You can’t do that! So that doesn’t make sense.
But then he does it anyway. Okay. No problem there. That’s just normal hero stuff. And the Church… in order to stop him.. sends out FOUR FUCKING PRIESTS TO STOP HIM!!! So their big problem with ONE Priest going to fight vampires was that people might think they don’t have control anymore? Right? Maybe I’m wrong I could have been bored and daydreaming during this super dramatic scene but that was the Churches motivation right? And then they send FOUR Priests not to help or fight vampires, but to FIGHT ANOTHER PRIEST. How does that show they are in any sort of control at all?
Maybe if there was some moment or thread of plot that connected the main Monseigneur (Christopher Plummer) to the bad guy and had some sort of stupid plot about something it would make more sense but as it goes it makes even less sense and is pretty infuriating.
In Conclusion, sure Priest would be fun to watch and make fun of and you can have a great time getting pissed off at how shitty it is. But that does not mean we should applaud it for that or celebrate it and encourage more people to make shit like this. I wanted to see a badass action movie about a super warrior Priest fighting things. If that was in the movie then all this bad dialogue and shitty motivations would be more excusable. But that’s not in the movie so the movie sucks.
Final Grade: F