I'm a sucker for things of a dystopian nature which is why I was so excited about Priest (2011). And it has vampires. And people doing ninja stuff. That's so cool. Right? RIGHT????
Well, the movie as a whole kind of turns into a blur. A real pretty blur. It's one of those movies that if I came in at any point and tried to watch it without seeing the titles it could be any movie in the genre like Blade Runner, Marathon Man, V for Vendetta, Book of Eli, I Am Legend or Legion. The latter sharing the same star and director as Priest, making Paul Bettany and Scott Stewart the De Niro and Scorsese of mediocre, CGI laden supernatural thrillers.
The whole thing smacks of effort. Each actor plays every scene at about 11, every battle is built up waaaay too much and characters bicker endlessly. In fact, there was so much stopping and talking and arguing and looking remorseful and then sitting around I began to feel like this is the Chekhov of mediocre, CGI laden supernatural thrillers.
So what's all the talking about? Well, Paul Bettany is a priest named Priest, though I liked pretending that his name was actually Greg. Or Sam. And, like, a really really really long time ago the vampires were going to wipe out all of humanity but then the Church discovered people that could kick ass and sent them to deal with the vampires. And they did such a good job that the priests rendered themselves unemployed. But now the vampire threat is back but no one believes it except Priest because they took his niece. So Priest goes rogue and starts kicking ass.
What's never actually answered is how this religious task force was chosen. One character mentions they were mainly taken as children. So, I guess next time you see a kid jumping in slow motion you should get their number in case there is a threat of the vampire variety. What's also never answered is what the fuck is up with these vampires? They seems to have wandered out of an early computer test for I Am Legend or Resident Evil. They're basically a big pair of teeth, no eyes and a lot of drool. Then you have your main villain, the aptly named Black Hat, the first human/vampire hybrid because apparently it had never occurred to the Queen vampire to do that before.
This is a movie filled with bizarre sweeping statements and images that are never explained. WHY don't the priests use guns? The one time a gun is successfully used in the movie it works out pretty fucking well. WHY are they keeping the remaining vampires in camps? It seems like it'd be a pretty great idea to, y'know, just get rid of the species that was going to destroy your population. WHY does no one have a fucking name? It's like the writers put in place holders saying that they'd totally come up with names in the next draft. I realize the answers to these questions and more is probably in the graphic novel of which it is based. But it feels like the movie is using it's graphic novel cred as a crutch to get away with not explaining things. I can hear the DVD commentary now, "you know, the graphic novel really explains the back story...."
Priest is like a bizarre sampling platter of sci-fi and horror tropes. Even as I write this I'm remembering bits and pieces that were kind of important to the plot then kind of not... Had they bothered to explore anyone of them at length, we might have had something worth watching rather than an extended trailer for a sequel that, God-willing, will never happen.