Forgive me Father, for I have snored.

Paul Bettany must be desperately bent on carving a career as an action star. Either that or the man’s lost a hefty bet. Priest marks the second time Bettany and director Scott Charles Stewart have worked on a picture together, the first being last year’s outright embarrassing Legion. Though Priest never quite reaches the putrid depths of the pairs last collaboration (Legion was easily one of the worst movies of 2010), it is something worse: a flavorless bore.

After a brief prologue that attempts to instill a modicum of emotional resonance, the audience is treated to a wonderful animated sequence detailing the world of Priest. It seems that humans and vampires have been battling for millennia and have driven one another to the brink of extinction. With the help of the Priests, a mystical fraternity of elite vampire slayers, mankind is able to beat the vampires into submission but is forced to live under the protection of the Orwellian Catholic church. With the vampire menace supposedly defeated, the Church demands the Priests be disbanded. These details aren’t particularly interesting (or important) but the illustrations are striking and pop nicely, setting the stage for a much better film than the one that is to follow. This is the first and last of Priest’s truly bright spots.

The film’s performances, like the film its self, range all the way from poor to mediocre. Bettany and co-star Maggie Q sleepwalk through the film together, each hoping that sullen delivery will make them convincing “strong silent types”. It does not. Also slumming is Star Trek’s Karl Urban, playing the film’s Priest-turned-vampire villain. Though his performance is far from good, his attempt to inject campy life into what little the film gives him is admirable.  Then there is Cam Gigandet, whose very career would indicate that Hollywood is experiencing a severe shortage of attractive people. Once again, he is able to rest soundly with the knowledge that he’s turned another near-comatose performance into a paycheck.

Pretentious 9th graders may enjoy the trappings of the film as it fancies its self a pseudo-western. Though not the worst element of the film, this helps to further bury it. Sergio Leone will likely be mentioned stupidly many times throughout the recording of the DVD commentary. Dumping so harshly on a director’s second full-length effort feels cruel but is unavoidable. To say that a film feels like watching someone else play a videogame seems trite but Priest is just that sterile an experience. Director Stewart seems incapable on making an honest film. Priest had little hope of actually engaging an audience but its muddled western gimmick makes the film feel like a trendy and pitiable lie.

One thing could have saved Priest. Even with its multitudes of misgivings, solid action might have made Priest worthy of a Redbox rental or even a spot on a Netflix queue were its action sequences had worked. They don’t. Though Priest pushes its PG-13 as far as it will go (I can’t recall the last PG-13 picture to feature so much blood) it fails to excite. One may be tempted to say that the film might have benefitted from an R rating but a greater amount of gore can only do so much. The violence, though bloody, has no bite. Characters frequently punch one another across rooms and shred monsters into chunks of viscera in midair but nothing sticks and no one cares. Priest ends on a note that would suggest not only a sequel but a series. One knows not whether to laugh or to cry.

More perfect examples of purely factory-made product are few as Priest allows producers to cash-in on two tired trends at once. Not only is the film’s source material a well-regarded graphic novel, it’s a well-regarded graphic novel about vampires. Lots and lots of vampires. Now in 3D. Priest is a pitch-perfect “sign of the times” movie, a document that can be looked back on decades from now and give viewers of the future insight into the sort of crap that Hollywood was schilling in 2011. Priest is not a bad, bad film but it is the absolute worst sort of movie. This is frustrating because, were it given time and attention, this could have been a good, or at least fun, film. Instead, it is hastily pushed together tripe.


Not on the 3D: Though the 3D doesn’t cripple Priest any more severely than Priest does its self, it’s hardly worth shilling out any extra cash for. The added dimension gives the animated sequence some nice depth but simply isn’t worth it.


Instantly watch from thousands of TV episodes & movies streaming from Netflix. Try Netflix for FREE!