Priest Review

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The future. After a war between vampires and humans, society has reverted to parallel the 19th Century Wild West. A priest (Paul Bettany), one of the human warriors who defeated the monsters, sets out to rescue his abducted niece from a resurgent army of vampires.


The second teaming of star Paul Bettany and director/effects man Scott Stewart isn’t quite as dementedly nonsensical as Legion, but is similarly murky – and in knife-atcha-face 3D to boot. The actual plot is reverentially lifted from the John Ford-John Wayne classic The Searchers, with defeated vampires confined to reservations, and a hero who’ll murder his own niece if he finds she’s been tainted by her captors. But, having evoked a great movie, Stewart bizarrely chooses to pillage from the sorts of films few directors would want to remind you of … the animated Western prologue from Jonah Hex … the vampire cocoons from Van Helsing … the future war which looks like WWI from Mutant Chronicles … the ecclesiastical martial art from Equilibrium … the hopping CGI vamps from I Am Legend .. the souped-up cycles from MegaForce.

Sporting a nose-and-forehead crucifix tattoo which would be a deal-breaker for some movie stars, Bettany croaks a bit and wanders gloomily through a city state dominated by the oppressive church (represented by Christopher Plummer). He hops on his super-bike (a lone scrap of high tech in this retro-future) when word comes in from a Sheriff (Cam Gigandet, from Twilight) that Priest’s brother (Stephen Moyer, from True Blood) has been attacked in his homestead and teenage Lucy (Lily Collins) abducted. Then, it’s off into the white wastes at high speed to pick up the trail and kill vamps with edged weapons (priests don’t use guns).

Based on a comic book, it has put some thought into its world: vampires here are a separate species from humanity, eyeless giant CGI bats on steroids, though one baddie, subtly named Black Hat (Karl Urban), more closely resembles the chatty, nattily-dressed Hammer Films breed of bloodsucker. Vampires build giant termite hills with their own spit and human skulls, but are mostly hissy nonentities who get blown away by cool kids (Maggie Q is aboard as a priestess). What these creatures aren’t is anything like an analogue to the Comanche of The Searchers. Stewart copies the plot of the old movie without importing its emotional content, entirely missing the points which make Wayne’s Ethan Edwards so much more interesting than Bettany’s nameless warrior monk.

It moves at a lick, but is instantly forgettable. ‘Better’ than Legion, in that it doesn’t run to unintentional laughs, it’s marginally less entertaining. On the strength of this duo, the Bettany-Stewart teaming will never threaten Wayne-Ford in the panth