Review: PRIEST (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Review: PRIEST (2011)


For a movie that has been constantly changing release dates throughout 2010 and 2011 until the last-minute conversion from 2D to 3D -- it's pretty obvious that the studio have little faith against Scott Stewart's sophomore follow-up, PRIEST. While it's kind of questionable that the studio chose to release a troubled movie like PRIEST in the crowded summer season, the movie is surprisingly not the kind of unholy mess one might predict in the first place. Okay, it's not particularly a good movie by any means but as a guilty pleasure of sorts, PRIEST is a fairly entertaining B-grade trash.

Based on the popular Korean comic of the same name by Min-Woo Hyung, the movie follows the titular character who simply called as Priest (Paul Bettany) in his forbidden quest by breaking the rules set by The Church and goes rogue to find his 18-year-old missing niece Lucy (Lily Collins) after receiving the news from her lover, Sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet). Apparently Lucy is being kidnapped by the vampires and her parents (Stephen Moyer, Madchen Amick) end up brutally slaughtered. As the Priest and Hicks set off across the wasteland, they eventually uncover the truth that Black Hat (Karl Urban), a former priest-turned-vampire leader who has a big plan to conquer the walled city guarded by The Church. Complicating matters is the leader of The Church, Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer), who send over four priests to capture the Priest dead or alive. Unlike the other three priests, the female priest simply named as Priestess (Maggie Q) is not interested to capture him but to warn and help him in a fight against Black Hat and his bloodsucking captors.

Cory Goodman's adapted screenplay is full of tired cliches that borrow heavily from BLADE RUNNER (1982), JUDGE DREDD (1995) and BLADE (1998) and make them as one-dimensional as possible. The dialogues are awfully stilted and at times, terribly annoying (the earlier part involving "To go against the church is to go against God" is just unintentionally hilarious to be taken seriously). Characters are either wasted or haphazardly executed (except that Bettany remains quite an engaging presence as the stoic, no-nonsense Priest), and the overall story is passionless at best.

Still, at a brief 87-minutes, PRIEST is quite a blessing-in-disguise. Lisa Churgin and Bob Murawski's editing is fast enough to keep the pace moving in a no-fuss, rapid clip while the movie is also benefited from fine production values. The stark contrast between a dank, oppressive city and the scorching wasteland are visually engaging, while the special effects (notably for the CGI vampire creature) are quite impressive. Don Burgess's cinematography is equally captivating, and Christopher Young's dramatic score often keep things lively.

Scott Stewart's direction may have been as pedestrian as he once did in his debut, LEGION (2009) which also starred Paul Bettany, but at least he improves a bit in term of its overall execution and pacing. Here, he delivers a couple of cool-looking action sequences enough to keep the viewers occupied. That will be included the fight scene between the Priest and a pack of vampires with flying crosses; another fight scene involving the Priest and Priestess against a super-vampire monster; and of course, the climactic finale at the speeding train as well as Priestess' fight scene with a rope dart against a group of renegade bikers. The opening credit is also worth noting for, and arguably the best scene among all -- a dynamic animation created by the renowned Genndy Tartakovsky (TV's Samurai Jack), which shows an exciting backstory of how human and vampires wage eternal wars against each other in the first place.

PRIEST could have been a promising movie, if Scott Stewart would learn more about subtlety than just laying out cool concept with no backbone lies beneath. Right until the end of the movie, there's an obvious hint that a sequel will be underway. If that's the case, we can only hope Stewart would improve further.

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