Film Review: Priest

Adapted from a graphic novel, Priest is a mildly entertaining action flick. Nevertheless, the film suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its contemporaries.

In a world where humans faced a constant battle against vampires, a band of priests were charged with protecting the population against the undead. Having defeated their nemesis, the group are disbanded. When a group of vampires attack Priest’s family and kidnap his niece, he disobeys the Church and goes in search of young Lucy…

Priest offers very little to differentiate it from numerous films in the same vein. Moreover, the flaws are all too familiar. There is a lack of character development; it is difficult to respond to the one-dimensional protagonist, and even more so to the villain with no depth or motivation. The dialogue is awful at times, which does not help to generate the necessary tension. The little attempts to add a modicum of humour fall entirely flat.

Scott Charles Stewart’s film is an amalgamation of various genres. Priest points to Gothic horror with its vampires and religious overtones, although it is not at all frightening. The dystopian vision of the future is pure science fiction, while the narrative and even the landscape are suggestive of a Western. Despite the presence of the supernatural, the plot of Priest is incredibly similar to John Ford’s The Searchers.

Perhaps the best part of the movie is the animated sequence at the beginning. Giving a brief history of the battle between human and vampire, the segment has a delightfully rustic quality in its style. It is reminiscent of a similar sequence at the beginning of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. References to numerous other films are also palpable. The city scenes are unmistakably influenced by Blade Runner, while the isolated and uninhabited landscape is evocative of more recent fare such as The Book of Eli and The Road.

The highly stylised look of Priest gives the film an artificiality that is presumably the desired affect. Some of the underground sequences are so dark it is difficult to decipher what is happening. Special effects are fine, but unremarkable. The use of 3D seems wasteful; it adds nothing to the film.

Paul Bettany’s Priest is more Blade than Dracula‘s Van Helsing. A near-silent type, the character is more concerned with action than emotion. Cam Gigandet has suffered in some dud roles recently, but his delivery here is especially pained. Lily Collins has little to do as damsel-in-distress Lucy.

Priest‘s main failure is the feeling of déjà vu it generates. From the plot to the look to the flaws, it is all too familiar. The suggestion of a sequel at the end of the film is lamentable.