Over the last decade or so, the month of May has become the opening of the summer movie season. Big tent-pole releases battling each other for box office domination have become the norm and any film not predestined to be a blockbuster generally steers clear. So why Priest, a modestly budgeted sci-fi actioner with no real box office draw was released the week after Thor and the week before Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a head scratcher.
Maybe the thought was that every summer movie season seems to have one breakout hit that comes out of nowhere. Unfortunately for Priest it is not going to be that film.
Priest is loosely based on the Korean comic of the same name and is the story about a world where humans and vampires have decimated the land after hundreds of years trying to exterminate each other. The vampires were defeated by a line of warrior priests and the church placed the surviving vampires in reservations while sealing off society in tightly packed cities. With the vampires defeated though, the church had no more need for their army of specially trained priests and had the order disbanded. The vampires of course escape their confinement and it is up to a rogue priest (played by Paul Bettany) and his priestess friend (Maggie Q) to stop the vampires and save humanity once again.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the story Priest tries to tell but the way it attempts to tell it is where it falls apart. To put it simply, Priest feels rushed. At a scant 87 minutes there is very little time to tell the “epic” story that is attempted in the film. Sure, at its core the film is just a simple chase/rescue story but with so much of the early narrative focusing on establishing the world, there is little time for the viewer to care about the characters and it doesn’t help that Paul Bettany is devoid of any personality in the film.
Bettany, who has a weird filmography filled with odd religious characters, can be a fantastic actor. His work in A Knight’s Tale and A Beautiful Mind shows that the guy can drive a film even when in the passenger seat but his role as the Priest here lacks any energy. He just comes off as a boring version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, ultimately being as forgettable as the film itself.
Priest lacks the flair and energy to be an effective film let alone a summer release. Do not be mistaken, Priest is entirely watchable but you most likely won’t remember it the next day.
2 out of 5.