In an alternate world ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires, a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) from the last Vampire War now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) who possesses otherworldly fighting skills
Review by Louise Keller:
The Priest (Paul Bettany) is the ultimate weapon in this hybrid vampire western in which faith, sacrifice and redemption are the themes. The story is based on a series of Korean graphic novels by Min-Woo Hyung, offering wonderful opportunities to the relevant departments to create spectacular visuals. The film looks wonderful with its mix of stark desolate locations, faceless vampires oozing slime and a selfless Priest with superpowers whose distinctive red cross is tattooed on his forehead and nose. Director Scott Stewart has fun with the genre, making effective use of 3D technology and amid the ridiculous, delivers an often surprisingly compelling B-movie with some superior elements.
It has been a long time since we have seen Bettany in a really good role and although he is extremely good here, it would be nice to see him in a role worthy of his talents. He takes on the role of a priest who is good at his job and who has obviously sacrificed much by taking on the grubby (and often messy) tasks of eliminating the hideous blobby vampires. When his Monsignor (Christopher Plummer, looking suitably regal) tells him that to go against the church is to go against God, the priest's crushed metal rosary beads fall in slow motion onto the stone below before he sets out onto the desolate land with striking rock formations under a full moon to rescue his brother's daughter Lucy (Lily Collins). She has been kidnapped as bait by Black Hat (Karl Urban), the handsome yellow-eyed human vampire, who has a plan, about which we are soon to learn.
Other characters are Cam Gigandet's well-meaning but ineffectual Sheriff Hicks, who is in love with Lucy and Maggie Q's solemn Priestess, with whom the Priest has seemingly shared some kind of past. 'Anything that comes up that isn't me, shoot it,' the Priest tells Sheriff Hicks, as the black-clothed one plunges down a bottomless chasm in search of Lucy. There are scenes comprising high drama, operatic music surrounded by fire and snow and all roads point to the spectacular, isolated salt flats where a train carrying an army of vampires is crossing at top speed. The climactic and thrilling confrontation between the Eastwood-esque Black Hat and the Priest takes place on the top of the speeding train. There are scares too as well as gore and Bettany injects class into what might have become a ho-hum genre piece. It looks as though the storm into which the priest rides will last another day with a sequel almost certainly on the cards. Or the rosary beads.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A woman priest! Talk about fiction. But then in Priest 3D anything goes - from a female priest in what appears to be a Catholic order - to vampires that resemble large, rabid, white dogs, ratlike without eyes but prominent teeth. It's a dystopian future, ruled by the Monsignors, led by Orelas (Christopher Plummer, the one actor who doesn't lose his dignity in this film), inside walled cities of fearful people.
The vampire wars are over, and the priests who defended the humans and were once heroes are now doing menial jobs, invisible and treated with disdain. Why? Because that's how Korean graphic artist Min-Woo Hyung designed them in his comic books and the filmmakers followed his lead.
The origins of the film are evident everywhere, from the introductory sequences which are in fact graphics, to the exaggerations of the setting, story and characters. Priest himself (Paul Bettany) has some sort of supernatural powers, as do vampires, including the only human vampire, the Clint Eastwood-esque Black Hat (Karl Urban). Indeed, it's quite an Eastwood infused movie, with Paul Bettany often channeling Eastwood's low, breathy and menacing delivery.
The wasteland setting adds to the 3D darkness and the production design is industrial strength, as is the sound design. That and the insistent music herald the film's mini-climaxes, but fail to drown out the often cheesy dialogue.
That female priest is played with gravitas by Maggie Q, who gets to do more than the usual support work to the boys in the big action scenes. Cam Gigandet has a thankless role as Hicks, a largely ineffective young man trying to track down and save his girlfriend, Lucy (Lily Collins) but all the SFX creatures are fury and fangs.
Priest 3D might be of interest for those keen on the comics but for others it's a very loud and chaotic but lame fantasy effort with much mayhem but insufficient payoff.
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PRIEST 3D (M)
CAST: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer, Alan Dale
PRODUCER: Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, Mitchell Peck
DIRECTOR: Scott Stewart
SCRIPT: Cory Goodman (graphic novels by Min-Woo Hyung)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess
EDITOR: Lisa Zeno Churgin, Rebecca Weigold
MUSIC: Christopher Young
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Bridgland
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 25, 2011
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