'Priest' should be excommunicated



Article Published: May. 19, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Priest' should be excommunicated

Paul Bettany and Josh Wingate star in 'Priest.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

Three words: Crucifix throwing stars.

That pretty much says it all, but for the sake of diligence, I'll continue.

"Priest" isn't just a turkey; it's a turducken of action sub-genres. Whereas turducken is a turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with a chicken, "Priest" is just as excessive and considerably less juicy - a post-apocalyptic adventure crammed with cowboys, vampires, bikers, ninjas, slow-motion "Matrix" scenes and gimmicky, post-production 3-D.


It's no surprise, coming from special effects whiz turned director Charles Scott Stewart, whose last film, "Legion," was about angel zombies. Zeitgeist is his game, and, if anything, "Priest's" lack of inspiration offers something as straightforward as it is asinine.

Perhaps realizing the futility of it all, Stewart doesn't waste any time getting to the point. In an alternate distant future or something, in a world where humans have warred with vampires for eons, only an order of highly trained fighting priests could save humanity.

Humans retreated behind massive city walls, governed by the oppressive, Big Brother-ish church, while the last vestiges of vampires were rounded up into isolated reservations. With their mission accomplished, the priests were forced into retirement. But not for long.

When vampires attack a frontier family and kidnap their daughter, Lucy (Lily Collins, "The Blind Side"), one priest, known only as Priest (Paul Bettany, "Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World"), comes out of retirement - against the church's orders and under threat of excommunication - to rescue her.

He hops on his priest-cycle and hits the dusty trail, joined by frontier sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet, "Burlesque") and an old comrade, Priestess (Maggie Q, TV's "Nikita"), who aid in his search for the missing girl.

But they uncover something much more nefarious than a simple kidnapping. The vampires' leader, former priest Black Hat (Karl Urban), is hatching a scheme that could turn the tide against humanity.

Urban offers the liveliest performance of the lot, considering his character's technically dead, while Bettany's role involves a series of intense glaring, glowering and the occasional raspy uttering. Gigandet, still retaining some of his eyeliner from "Burlesque," delivers some of the film's most unintentionally funny dialogue, and Q is just kind of there.

"Priest" does, however, feature a strong supporting cast, all of whom are grossly underused, specifically Brad Dourif (HBO's "Deadwood") as a snake oil salesman and Christopher Plummer ("The Sound of Music") as a dastardly monsignor.

Concerning ambience, Stewart draws heavily from "The Road Warrior" and "Blade Runner," while also pulling dialogue straight from "The Empire Strikes Back."

But it's just as well, since the film really has no identity or character of its own, despite its obvious setup for a sequel. Its anti-establishment message is far from subtle, and Stewart may as well have a computer-generated pope voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, shouting, "Nyah! Look at me! I'm subtext!"

Fortunately, you can, at least, see the subtext, whereas the hasty post-production 3-D treatment makes "Priest" more dark and murky than old communion wine, and just as hard to swallow.

"Priest," rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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