Wednesday, October 19, 2011
While I am pretty much up for any horror/supernatural/sci-fi movie that comes down the pike (as a casual perusal of this blog will attest), my beautiful wife is a little more discriminating. She likes some movies you wouldn’t guess in a million years (John Carpenter’s The Thing) but nothing will tempt her to watch most horror flicks (anything where someone has a knife or other sharp object). So, when something in the genre catches her interest, I make sure we see it. Which brings us to Priest.
Based on a Japanese graphic novel, Priest is set in an alternate reality where humans have been at war with vampires for centuries. The vampires here are more creature-like than human, although they do keep a few human familiars, who seem to have some sort of derived power themselves. After all the fighting, the humans, led by a theocratic, rigid Church, got the upper hand by creating an army of warriors called Priests, who are easily distinguishable by a tattoo of a cross that runs from their forehead down the bridge of their nose. The Priests turn the tide, and the few surviving vampires are driven onto reservations. We see one of the last battles of the war as the main character, Priest (Paul Bettany), enters a large hive of vampires, and sees his best friend, Black Hat (Karl Urban), carried away after an ambush. The authors did not seem to waste a lot of time working on names for the characters. Anyway, they win the war, everybody moves to heavily fortified, massively polluted cities, the Church disbands the Priests and limits their power lest they become a threat to their authority, and everyone settles down to a grim lifeless existence.
Priest’s brother, sister-in-law (Priest’s old flame) and niece (or is she?) are working out in the middle of a wasteland, prospecting for something or other when the vampires stage a surprise attack. The adults are killed, and the girl is taken prisoner. The young girl’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), who is too old for her, frankly, tells Priest he’s going after her. Although the Church tries to stop this, saying the vampires are no longer a threat, Priest goes anyway, eventually joined by Priestess (Maggie Q). I told you they didn’t waste a lot of time on names, although, disappointingly, Gigandet’s character is named Hicks, not Sidekick. Much fighting ensues, and Priest is shocked to discover who is leading the vampires, although if you hang around with a guy named Black Hat, you shouldn’t be surprised by this.
Was the movie any good? It’s a little hard to say. It’s certainly no Citizen Kane, but anyone who goes to see a vampire/apocalyptic/martial arts movie and expects to see Citizen Kane probably has something wrong with them. I was reasonably entertained, in a watch-the-good-guys-kick-the-bad-guys way. The plot, as you have probably noticed, is more or less the same as the classic western The Searchers, which seems a good source of material to use, but it definitely could have done with more character development. Bettany is a good actor, although he persists in choosing these dour, emotionless roles. I also like Karl Urban a lot, but he is under-utilized to the point of well, pointlessness here.
In closing, if it looks like something you’d enjoy, you probably will, although it won’t change your life. The director and star are the same as for 2009’s Legion, so this may be an ongoing working partnership.