Best Movies of All Time + [Scott Charles Stewart]

PRIEST

PRIEST-13

Priest is a 2011 action film directed by Scott Charles Stewart that takes place in a futuristic, alternate universe where humans and vampires have lived on Earth together since the beginning of time. Their relations, however, have always been violent, with the vampires having the upper hand until the church began to train "priests" to combat them. After a prolonged war, the priests subdued the vampires and placed the ones still living into reservations. The priests were then discarded and sent to fend for themselves in the world of man. One day, our lead Priest (Paul Bettany) learns his brother and sister-in-law have been killed by vampires, who then took his niece captive. Going against the wishes of Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer), the church's current leader, Priest sets out to find his missing kin with the help of a local sheriff named Hicks (Cam Gigandet). In response, the church sends out a small group of priests to subdue our hero; this group is led by a Priestess (Maggie Q) who may or may not have the church's best interests in mind. As time continues to pass, both groups must do whatever they can to reach their objectives before the vampire menace can reach the cities and retake control.

Before I get into my dismantling of this particular film, I'd like to acknowledge that I had high hopes going into the screening. When I first heard about Priest last year - I had the opportunity to see it at an advance screening but couldn't make the time - it sounded like another bit of rote action bits in the vein of 2010's Legion (which also starred Bettany). As I mentioned in my 2011 Summer Movie Preview, where I listed Priest as the film I was ninth-most excited to see this summer, all I've heard in the past few months was how excited all the cast and crew have been since wrapping their shoot. Bettany even went on to claim that it's the best screenplay he's read in years. All of their excitement got me a little jazzed up about this one, but in the end, I was sorely disappointed.

The reason Priest doesn't work is because we get a shoddy screenplay that doesn't offer much in terms of story, character development or dialogue. The story is relatively straight-forward, but it's so predictable that I found it difficult to keep myself engaged with each successive event. In terms of a character arc, I don't really think we're getting much. Then again, this isn't necessarily the type of film that needs one, so perhaps I'm being a tad harsh in that regard. And oh, the dialogue. My readers will know that I'm a bit of a stickler for some realistic conversation. By realistic conversation, I mean dialogue that fits the scene and the film and doesn't make me laugh or roll my eyes at whatever the character is saying. Unfortunately, this is where Priest truly falls short. There were quite a few moments while I watched the film that I found myself rolling my eyes or chuckling at some of the lines being delivered. When your audience can't even get involved with the dialogue, then there's major problems with your screenplay.

That being said, I can't bash the actors too much considering the level of drivel with which they had to work. Everyone was just a little too over-the-top for my personal tastes, but perhaps you'll enjoy it a little more than I did. Bettany, who I usually love and was one of those listed on my post of favorite actors, was probably the worst of the lot, to the point where it feels like he almost mailed in his performance. Plummer gives a decent performance in his limited amount of screen-time, but he's so underutilized that it almost isn't worth mentioning him here. Even Karl Urban, who I usually enjoy, brings a little bit more badness to the screen. I realize that the script wasn't great, but great actors find ways to level the playing field, so to speak.

The visual effects were rather good, if I do say so myself. I didn't see the film in 3D - I'm staunchly against the third-dimension when it comes to movie theaters, so I wouldn't outright recommend seeing Priest that way - but the visuals might look nice in that regard.

Overall, Priest is probably a movie you'll want to avoid. I wasn't very fond of the aforementioned Legion, but that film (which I gave a "C" grade) was miles ahead of this one. Save your money and wait until you can rent it.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: F
1.5 Thumbs Down