About a year ago I went through a massive Paul Bettany phase and as a result acquired this film. Priest is based on a series of comics which are really nothing like the film in any way what-so-ever. The premise of the film is that a centuries long battle against vampires (proper beasty vampires, not sparkly human ones) left humanity with only one hope: Priests – a warrior caste who fought back the vampires and removed their threat – only to be alienated from society, made redundant and left to work menial jobs as outcasts. Paul Bettany is one of these priests – called Priest – who takes it upon himself to investigate when his brother’s family is attacked by vampires and killed – all except for his niece who it appears has been kidnapped. The priesthood forbids Priest to go, saying that vampires are no longer a threat, but Priest ignores their ruling and goes anyway – forcing the priesthood to send other priests after Priest*. Shockingly enough vampires ARE still a problem and Priest and a local gun-slinging sheriff (alas James from Twilight) who is in love with his niece go after them in the hunt to retrieve her. Mayhem and bad-assage ensue.
One of the shocks and disappointments for me was Bettany’s accent – he has dropped the English for a strong American accent which does not suit him and makes you slightly uncomfortable all the way through the film – not because it is bad, just because it is not HIM! Other than the accent Priest is pretty badass and epic, refusing to use guns but instead massacring vampires with knives and little flying star things.
The primary baddie of the film is Eomer/Judge Dredd who is another of my favourite actors, and he does not disappoint as the moody, kick-ass villain. The premise is pretty cool too. The setting is very wild-west frontier – as though society has regressed due to harsh living conditions and the city environments are very interesting too.
There is a lot of religious commentary to the film – not all of which I like. The cities are run by the Priesthood and society seems to have been taken over by the Catholic Church, which now governs it with an iron fist. The public are all expected to go to confession, which takes place in automated booths where you confess your transgressions and are then given an automated reply and order of Hail-Mary’s etc. All the leaders we meet are up their own asses – ignoring reality in lieu of social stability – and the casting out of once-revered priests gives everything a really depressed tone. The tie in to the church rule and vampirism is done well – with the church having been the ones primarily equipped to fight the vampires: using crosses and trained priests to purge the evil from the earth. Vampires are automatically viewed as evil due to their being sightless and unable to stand the sun – with priests viewing eyes as the window to the soul: have no eyes = have no soul.
I really wish the comics were more like the film as this is one occasion where I prefer the film to the original graphic adaption. There is minimal character development – a little bit of love and a little bit of back story, but really the lack of character knowledge is in keeping with Priest’s closed off attitude – a bit like Judge Dredd in the more recent film Dredd – another review I will be writing. The film is primarily awesome because of the action and the setting – the world that has been created has a lot of dystopian appeal.
Basically, if you think you can get over Paul Bettany’s American accent then watch this film as it is rather good, otherwise you will, like me, end up sat there feeling weird and forgetting everything but the accent every time Bettany speaks. Not his fault, but they should have left him British.
*still following me?