Priest is one of those films you will forget about approximately five minutes after it’s over. There is absolutely nothing memorable or noteworthy about it. In a sense, it reminded me a lot of another recent disaster, Jonah Hex, mainly because of the tone and completely disjointed feel of the story, as though it had been thrown together from bits and pieces of a larger plot. But while Hex had been pretty bad, it at least didn’t get particularly boring. Priest achieves this while managing to astound us with many more problems.
The film is set in a world where there has been a war between men and vampires which ended with men being walled up in cities, protected by the church, and vampires put away in reservations. During this war, highly trained men known as priests fought the vampires, but after the war, their skills were no longer needed, so it was decided to integrate them back into society.
Near the beginning of the film, a family is attacked by vampires and a young girl, Lucy (Lily Collins), is taken. A sheriff, Hicks (Cam Gigandet), enlists the help of one of Lucy’s relatives, who just happens to be a priest (Paul Bettany). Even though the priest is ordered to remain in the city, he breaks his vows in order to go after the creatures that took Lucy. This journey will take him out into a wasteland where several dangers await and eventually leads him to a confrontation with a powerful creature he has never faced before, the mysterious Black Hat (Karl Urban).
Starting with something as simple as the look of the film, it’s mostly set in a world that’s dark and dingy, which are two primary reasons why a film like this should never be shown in 3-D. Luckily, I got to see the film in good old fashion 2-D (well, as lucky as one can get when having to sit through a film like this). If I had had to see the film with the extra dimension, there’s a good chance a good chunk of the film would have been too dark to see as 3-D just tends to make films darker than normal. Even in 2-D parts of the film were hard to see.
While a lot of the film does take place in these dark locations, there are a few that take place outside, but this is mainly the seemingly unending footage of the priest, Hicks, and a priestess (Maggie Q) riding their futuristic motorcycles through the open desert while occasionally stopping to shoot the breeze about their current situation or to throw in another unimportant piece of the plot or two.
The characters themselves are so flat that even a light breeze would be enough to knock them over. With absolutely no character development and the choppy feeling of the film, particularly at the beginning, we are never given a reason to care about any of them or what they’re doing. Since they’re on a mission to save a young woman’s life, it’s rather important that we get engaged in their mission or else a struggle to stay awake will ensue like it did in my case.
The performances were equally horrendous. Paul Bettany is an excellent actor who has done great work in films like A Knight’s Tale and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but here, it’s as though he’s not even trying. Throughout the film, he’s very soft-spoken as he delivers his ridiculous and heavy-handed dialogue. It could very well be that the dialogue is just so bad that the actors didn’t know what to do with it, so some tried to muddle their way through while others tried overacting to compensate. Sadly neither method worked out well.
The film runs for what should have been a brief 80 minutes, but instead we get a film that feels like it goes on for far too long due to bad pacing and lack of engaging material. Even when it finally gets around to what’s supposed to be a big, exciting final fight between good and evil, most will be checking their watches to see how much longer it’ll be until they see daylight again. Speaking of wanting to see daylight again, there is a piece of dialogue that’s spoken while the characters are roaming around in the dark vampire caverns that ironically ends up describing the film more so than their situation. After searching the caverns for a minute or two, Hicks says “This is a waste of time. There’s nothing here.” I couldn’t agree more.
Priest is one of those films you will forget about approximately five minutes after it’s over. There is absolutely nothing memorable here.