REVIEW: Paul Bettany seems to have a thing for tough, butt-kicking religious types: he played an assassin monk in The Da Vinci Code, an uzi-wielding archangel in Legion (also by director Scott Stewart), and in this Korean comic book-based film is the titular warrior priest, a specially-ordained vampire fighter. When his niece Lucy (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires, the Priest (Bettany), rendered redundant after the human-vampire wars, goes back into action to rescue her, assisted by small town lawman Hicks (Gigandet), and his former colleague the Priestess (Q), facing off against the villainous human-vampire hybrid Black Hat (Urban).
The main problem with this movie is that it brings nothing new to the table. Warrior priests aren’t new, vampire wars aren’t new and totalitarian religious regimes aren’t new either. In fact, the whole movie can be turned into a game of “spot-where-this-came-from!” Elements are liberally borrowed from such movies as the Underworld films, the Mad Max films, Blade Runner, Equilibrium, V for Vendetta and so on. Black Hat’s getup is straight out of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and even the monstrous hive guardian brings to mind the rancor beast from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
The film is droll, joyless and takes itself far too seriously. Movies like this are meant to be escapism, and the 3D adds very little to the uninspired mix. The characters are mostly one-note and the cast doesn’t have to do very much. In addition to the cross tattooed on his forehead, all Bettany needs to carry him through the movie is a scowl. However, Karl Urban seems to be having fun, chewing the scenery as the big bad, but even he is underused. Also, what on earth is veteran actor and Oscar-nominee Christopher Plummer doing here?
Sorely lacking in imagination, energy and about as soulless as the vampires in it, Priest is far from a fun night out at the theatre. However, it does have decent visual effects and a stylish animated prologue going for it. But in the end, maybe paying your own priest at church a visit is more worthwhile– he’s probably more fun.
SUMMARY: Bringing nothing new to the table, Priest is a lifeless, paint-by-numbers post-apocalyptic thriller. Get your warrior priest/vampire war fix elsewhere.
RATING: 2 out of 5 STARS