Saturday, August 27, 2011
Review: Priest Wants to Be a Cowboy
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Scott Stewart
WRITER: Cory Goodman (based on the graphic novel series Priest by Min-Woo Hyung)
PRODUCERS: Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, and Mitchell Peck
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess
EDITORS: Lisa Zeno Churgin and Rebecca Weigold
COMPOSER: Christopher Young
ANIMATION STUDIO: Viking Animation Studios
Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Christopher Plummer, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Madchen Amick, and Alan Dale
Priest is a 2011 post-apocalyptic, vampire action movie. The film is based on the Korean comic book, Priest, by Min-Woo Hyung, which was published in the U.S. by American manga and graphic novel publisher, TOKYOPOP. The film follows a vampire-killing priest who disobeys orders to track down his niece and the vampire that kidnapped her.
Priest takes place on a world where for centuries, humans and vampires (who are bestial and don’t have eyes) have been at war. The Church (similar to the Roman Catholic Church) created an elite group of warriors called “Priests” who are blessed with special powers that allowed them to slay vampires. Humans won the war, killing most of the vampires and placing the rest in reservations. The Church built giant walled cities to protect mankind and to better control people.
The movie opens in Cathedral City and focuses on the character known only as Priest (Paul Bettany), and like other Priests, he has lived as an outcast since the end of the war. Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the sheriff of the nearby small town of Augustine, arrives to tell the Priest that his brother’s family was attacked by a pack of vampires and that Priest’s niece, Lucy Pace (Lily Collins), has been kidnapped by the vampires. Black Hat (Karl Urban), a mysterious vampire leader with a connection to Priest, now has Lucy. Disobeying the Church’s demand for him to stay in Cathedral City, Priest sets out into the Wastelands with Hicks, Lucy’s boyfriend, to recover her. Along the way, they are joined by a talented warrior, Priestess (Maggie Q), who helps them uncover a shocking vampire plot.
Although it may not be as obvious as Cowboys and Aliens, Priest is basically a post-apocalyptic, science fiction Western film. The Priests are something like sheriff’s deputies, with Paul Bettany’s Priest being a renegade Western gunslinger as hero. Of course, Karl Urban’s Black Hat is the villain in a black hat. Sadly, the film does not really do much with the very talented Karl Urban, who has terrific screen chops. By the end of this movie, I couldn’t help but think that Urban was vastly under-utilized.
In fact, Priest is a concept with a lot of good ideas, and the film under-utilizes most of them. Priest’s version of the vampire is wickedly good and the environment in which they live is cool, creepy, and scary, but this film never seems to do enough with that. Luckily, the story does make good use of Hicks, the Priestess, and even Lucy.
Priest does make great use of its lead character, Priest, and of the film’s lead actor, Paul Bettany. Priest is the strong, silent type – part Wesley Snipes’ Blade and part Clint Eastwood’s the Man with no Name. Bettany is a talented actor with movie star looks and skills, and he also has a great speaking voice. Director Scott Stewart, who worked with Bettany on the recent horror movie, Legion, recognizes this and makes great use of his star. Bettany makes the journey through Priest’s kooky world of gruesome vampires and creepy Church officials an entertaining road trip. Priest could have been a B-movie hot mess; instead, Stewart and Bettany make it hot stuff.
5 of 10
Saturday, August 27, 2011