Priest

If the world ever dissolves into a dystopian state, we’d never be able to say it’s something we haven’t seen before. From Blade Runner to1984 to more modern flicks like The Book of Eli and The Road, dystopia seems as common as vampires in movies these days.

So of course it only follows that Priest should give us both.

You might think the genre-bending would end there, but with Priest, we’re also given a generous helping of homages to westerns, sci-fi, and martial arts. That’s a lot of stuff to cram into its scant 87 minute run time, but somehow it works pretty well. The action sequences are nifty, and the visual effects are slick and fun; it’s really only the script that keeps Priest from elevating out of ‘good’ territory into ‘great’.

The action begins with an eye-catching animated sequence that tells how the world had been overrun by vampires (the monster variety, not the cape and pale skin kind), and that to combat them, a legion of vampire hunters called The Priests was organized. Then, once all the vampires are rounded up and sent off to detention centers, The Priests were no longer needed and got folded back into society in The City.

Just when all seems safe (though, yes, very dystopian), the best and brightest of the priests (Paul Bettany) is yanked back into the fray. A group of vampires attacks his brother’s family in the outlands, killing his sister-in-law (Madchen Amick) and kidnapping his niece (Lily Collins). Disobeying a direct order from The Clergy (who refuse to admit the vampires are back), the Priest heads off on the coolest motorcycle this side of Thunderdome to find his niece and kill the vampires.

Along the way, he reteams with former colleague The Priestess (Maggie Q) and his niece’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) to save The City from being overrun by the vampire army.

Director Scott Stewart, who also helmed Bettany’s Legion, knows how to paint a stylish, sleek cityscape, and he keeps the visual fun coming thoughout. The battles will instantly remind you of The Matrix, with their bodies-contorting-in-slow-motion choreography, and the monsters themselves are a welcome change from the Pattinson-esque vampires that have been all the rage lately.

The script by first-timer Cory Goodman is the real issue. It varies pretty drastically from the original Korean comic by Min-Woo Hyung and is peppered with cheesy lines and even cheesier delivery. Gigandet (Twilight, Burlesque) may be pretty and all, but he could stand to polish his craft a little more, and even the great Christopher Plummer (as the head of The Clergy) seems to be doing all he can to ham it up for no good reason.

Bettany and Maggie Q both do a nice job, though. He channels Clint Eastwood with an effective gravelly, whispered delivery, and she’s up to her good ol’ speak-softly-and kick-the-crap-out-of-people antics.

The 3D-ness, which was added in post-production, actually works well in Priest, and it honestly makes a whole lot more sense than in the recent Thor. From little things (the flakes of ash/snow that fall from the sky) to the more conventional gimmicks (vampires jumping into your lap), the 3D surprisingly adds to the fun.

The door is left wide open for a sequel, and it honestly wouldn’t be the worst idea. After all, we’ve seen so many dystopia movies already, what could one more hurt?

3/5 stars