Priest Blu-ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, August 20, 2011
You have to admire Priest for at least trying to do a little something different with the vampire genre, which has become overrun with pretty boy runway models in recent years. The vampires in Priest are almost wormlike humanoids…eyeless, slavering beasts that bare little resemblance to Twilight’s lightweight bloodsuckers. So what a shame it is that Priest stumbles over itself so much, trying to decide if it’s a post-apocalyptic survival adventure or a modern day western, complete with a villain who wears a cowboy hat and duster.
Set in a nameless world in a nameless time, Priest seems to borrow much of its dressing from 2000AD’s Judge Dredd as most of the population is packed into mega-cities with a few stragglers nibbling out an existence in the wastelands. Instead of Judges, the cities are controlled by a powerful theocracy who play constant messages over loudspeakers warning its citizens “To go against the church is to go against God!” How’s that over heavy-handed! They even ride motorcycles that look similar to Judge Dredd’s. For millennia man had battled the vampires and finally defeated them with a Knights Templar-styled order of warrior priests who have superhuman abilities of strength, speed, and agility, although the source of these powers is never explained.
The vampires are believed to be defeated and safely and sequestered safely onto…gulp…reservations until a sheriff (Gigandet) from the wastelands arrives in the city to tell “Priest” (Bettany who never gets an actual name in the film) that his niece has been kidnapped by the vampires. Against the orders of Monsignor Orelas (Plummer) decides to go after his niece with the aid of the sheriff. The Monsignor sends out four priests to bring him back…”dead or alive”, further playing up its Wild West theme. One of those is Priestess (Maggie Q) who conveniently separates herself from the other three so she can aid Priest.
The action rolls to a climax aboard a train speeding towards the city carrying an army of vampires as Priest must face off against a new type of vampire played by Karl Urban. Priest is just one bar fight away from being a completely clichéd Western. There is even a crazy traveling snake-oil salesmen played by Brad Douriff in an all-too-small role. Bettany does little more than re-spin the quiet tough guy role he played in Legion. Small wonder since Legion was also directed by Scott Stewart. The film made its money back…barely but it’s difficult to see where $60 million dollars was spent. It’s a small cast in a short film and yeah the vamps are all CGI created but their screen time is relatively minor. And the height of pretension is that the film blatantly all but announced that there would be a sequel. Good luck with that one.
Cory Goodman’s script might be the biggest problem with the film. The vampires kidnap Priest’s niece to draw him out…knowing that the other priests will be sent out after him, leaving the city defenseless. Yet Urban’s character dispatches the other three priests without even breaking a sweat. So tell me again why they wanted to draw the priests out of the city? Points for a new take on vampires but Priest still doesn’t earn a top grade.
Bullets & Crucifixes: A Picture in Picture Experience – Your standard Blu-ray feature that allows you to watch the film with pop-up interviews with the director and cast and behind-the-scenes material.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (12:51) – Some decent material here that would have helped if they were in the final cut. These include an extended opening flashback sequence; A longer exposition scene with Urban recounting how he became a vampire; and extended scene at the end as Priest confronts Monsignor Orelas about the vampire threat.
The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest (12:49) – A look at creating the landscape of the world and the new take on vampires.
Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of Priest (11:25) – A look at the very cool weapons created for the film including the throwing crucifixes and Priest’s dagger.
Mania Grade: C-
Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Christopher Plummer, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q
Written By: Cory Goodman
Directed By: Scott Stewart
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2011
Extras: See Below