Priest (2011)

Forgive me father, for I have brought unto this blog a truly dreadful movie.

The premise of Priest – very, very loosely based on the Korean action-horror comics of the same name – is solid enough: a dystopian alternate reality in which vampires have coexisted in open enmity with mankind since the beginning of recorded history. Throw in a little Paul Bettany (who I generally enjoy), a ton of kung fu, and some big-budget special effects and you should have a sure-fire blockbuster, right? WRONGZO.

This movie is so horrible I actually shook my head and rubbed my eyes like a Looney Tunes character when I found out it boasts a Metacritic rating of 41 out of 100. 41! That’s nine points higher than director Scott Charles Stewart’s last effort, the similar but much more tolerable Legion, and approximately 41 points higher than it deserves.

The story: After centuries of bloody conflict with vampires, humanity is forced to retreat to the safety of a few enormous, walled cities. Only the introduction of the Priests – a superpowered class of warriors specially trained in kicking ass and taking confessions – enables mankind to turn back the monstrous horde. After the war is won, the surviving bloodsuckers are deposited in wasteland reservations far away from civilized areas and soon forgotten. The memory of the feud, however, remains much clearer in the minds of the ousted vampires.

After we kill all the vampires, my agent is next.

Biggest letdown: The internet isn’t big enough to thoroughly discuss this movie’s failings. Let’s start with this: Bettany and his fellow Priests are presented as stoic, one-man killing machines. During their heyday, they enjoyed limitless authority and an unchecked license to kill. They ride around on ridiculously huge, turbine-powered motorcycles, dishing out God’s justice as they see fit. If that sounds an awful lot like Judge Dredd with vampires, it’s because it’s a direct rip-off. When you’re cribbing awful Stallone actioners, something is seriously wrong. Even the settings – both the generic industrial megalopolis and the forsaken wastes of the desert beyond – are lifted from that movie, which itself borrowed shamelessly from Blade Runner.

"I don't break the law (of the Church)! I am the law (of the Church)!"

I wouldn’t be me if I failed to lodge the same complaint I made against Legion and countless other action movies: fight choreography is important and it needs to be taken seriously. Not every movie can be Enter the Dragon, but the first few fight scenes in Priest reminded me of Wayne vs. Cassandra’s dad in Wayne’s World 2. Then they trot out the wire stunts and suddenly everyone is Peter Pan, flying around and tossing motorcycles into the air with a flick of the wrist. I don’t require plausible physics. I’m all for the idea that these supersoldiers can do things other men can’t, but it still has to look good. Instead of artfully crafting fight scenes that showcase timing and balance, the director opts for ludicrous stunts and hackneyed film speed manipulations. Watch carefully and you’ll notice halfway through every single wire effect, the speed slows to a near standstill to give us a good view mid-flight, before ramping back up just as the character crashes through a wall. Doing that once or twice for emphasis can be a nice change of pace. This movie went to that particular well so often I started to think something was wrong with my DVD player.

If either Karl Urban or this director can tell me what movie first used the taunting gesture they're so cleverly recycling here, I'll eat my shoes.

Worst of all, “screenwriter” Cory Goodman must either be a hypnotist or the favorite nephew of somebody really important. That’s the only way I can explain how he got this gig over literally any other English-speaking person on the planet. I haven’t seen Apollo 18 but knowing he had a hand in the script, I’ll make sure to watch it with the volume off. The dialogue in Priest is so bad it made my brain hurt. Its non-stop barrage of humorless clichés and melodramatic bravado is a poor substitute for legitimate character development or, you know, coherent thought.

Vampire mole!

Why you should watch: If there is any redeeming quality to this schlockfest, it might be the vampire design. Instead of presenting the monsters as basically humanoid figures with glowing eyes and pointy teeth, for the most part these vamps are much more bestial. They look pretty cool and they’re just about the only things that keep you watching to the end. After the first battle, Bettany declares that the half-dozen fangers he just took down – with considerable effort – were only the weakest ones, left behind when their stronger brethren pulled up stakes (zing!) and moved on. It’s not much but I was definitely interested to see what the big baddies looked like. Small victories, folks.

Abandon all hope, ye who continue watching past here.

Memorable Moment: It doesn’t appear to be an exact stylistic match to the movie’s comic book roots, but the animated opening sequence is still pretty decent. It’s only about a minute long but it paints a vivid picture of the gradual evolution of mankind’s struggle against its nocturnal nemeses. After that, it’s all downhill. Way, way down.

Choice quote: “There are always two points: A and B. Know ’em both and you’ll kill a vampire.” What. The. Fuck.

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6 Responses to “Priest (2011)”

  1. […] dear fiends. Most of the vamps I’ve encountered this October have been non-standard, be they four-legged bloodhounds (heh) or mindless zombie vampires. In keeping with that theme, Lifeforce brings us yet another […]

  2. […] Priest – Peter Pan finds religion and takes on futuristic vampires. I barf all over myself. […]

  3. […] Priest – Peter Pan finds religion and takes on futuristic vampires. I barf all over myself. […]

  4. […] make fun of it. Two years ago I did Sharktopus and it was MIGHTY. Last year it was this big budget train wreck. For 2012 I went back for another made-for-TV monster movie: Camel […]

  5. […] (Bakjwi) – Vampires and priests. Almost like that movie Priest, except not a worthless pile of utter […]

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