Midweek movie review: Priest 3D

Sometimes a B-grade movie surprises you. It’s undeniably flawed but it still entertains, and is a lot more satisfying than many massive, hyper-marketed movies from major studios. Priest is the latest example of this phenomenon – a guilty, cheesy pleasure to be filed alongside The Warrior’s Way.

Very, very loosely based – to the point of unrecognisability – on the Korean comic of the same name, Priest begins with a stylish, visceral animated sequence to introduce the alternate reality that is the film’s setting. For centuries, mankind and monstrous, feral vampires have been at war. Having already decimated the world, the two groups are on the brink of destroying each other when humanity finally gains the upper hand – through the recruitment and training of priests: supernaturally gifted men and women who can actually go toe-to-toe in combat with the super fast, super strong blood drinkers.

Years later, the few remaining priests are pariahs still fiercely loyal to the Church that runs the dystopian cities home to most of the human race. When his niece (Lily Collins) is kidnapped though – apparently by vampires – Paul Bettany’s Priest disobeys orders and heads out into the “unChristian” wastelands with Sheriff Cam Gigandet to find her.

There’s no question that Priest feels like a dozen movies blended together: Blade Runner, Judge Dredd, Hellboy, Mad Max, Star Wars and The Searchers, just to name a few. The film also has a strong video game vibe. Given the subterranean, insect-like nature of the vampires, Priest comes across like a Gears of War movie, just with nimble warrior monks instead of burly bromance marines.

If Priest is lacking in originality, the film makes up for it with its fantastic world design. Automated confessional booths, solar powered jet cycles, imposing “guardian” statues in the desert – there’s plenty of attention to detail to be appreciated in Priest. There’s also plenty of CGI in the film but it doesn’t feel like it. The world created is pleasingly tangible.

Another very pleasing thing about Priest is its lack of trailer over-revelation. There are several surprises and a surprising amount of creepiness in the film. Although the dialogue is terrible, and in several cases annoyingly repetitive – clearly the filmmakers think their viewers have goldfish memories – Priest’s plot is kept clean, linear and free of convolution. These days that’s to be appreciated.

As for performances, Gigandet is the only really bad one of the lot. Bettany is stripped free of charm and charisma yet again as the grim protagonist but he’s convincing as a badass. The same can be said for the pining Priestess on his trail, played by Maggie Q. Karl Urban has fun meanwhile as the film’s villain – you know, the type that waves his hands around to classical music while genocide rages around him.

As a 3D conversion, Priest is completely unremarkable. The action scenes that skip straight to super slow-mo are also tired now, with the exception of one sublimely ridiculous, physics defying moment. This said, there’s still enough in Priest’s favour to make it worthwhile viewing for lovers of action fantasy. You probably have to be in an accepting frame of mind to appreciate it, but if you are, you should get a kick out of its very stylish genre mix.


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