Unlike the film vampires you are familiar with who are articulate, handsome, and philosophical, the vampires in Priest are savage animals, almost like feral wolves. Based on a series of graphic novels, the title Priest refers to an elite squad of vampire hunters who, working directly for the Catholic Church, battle vampires. According to the back story, humans and vampires have been in direct and bloody conflict throughout history. Due to the priest’s successes, the humans finally won the war but then walled themselves up in a towering city now under the thumb of a theocratic Catholic government. There are confessional booths along the street which resemble public toilets.
The successful priest warriors were disbanded after the vampire wars and told to integrate with society and becomes regular civilians, something they do not excel at very well. Suddenly, a frontier farmhouse is attacked and the family’s daughter is kidnapped by an alleged resurgent vampire horde. Coincidentally, the family is related to the most dangerous and skilled priest, Paul Bettany. Disobeying his elders who do not believe in the return of vampires, Bettany takes off on a quest to rescue his niece and is joined along the way by a sheriff, Cam Gigandet, who thinks he has what it takes to fight vampires, and a former priest colleague, Maggie Q, who provides Bettany’s priest with the expected sexual temptation to break his priestly vows of celibacy.
Unfortunately, the film makers did not make the decision to construct a serious, action/western, vampire film. The director, Scott Charles Stuart, is primarily a visual effects artist and previously directed Legion, a better film also starring Paul Bettany. The dialogue in Priest is a surefire nominee for worst screenplay of the year with atrocious dialogue and direct theft from very similar genre movies. There are pieces of the Mad Max wasteland, the Underworld issue of cross breeds, the walled city of Judge Dredd, and the vampires resemble the ‘things’ from Pandorum. The actors do their best to muddle through their mundane and predictable conversations; Bettany and Maggie Q come across very well as vampire hunters and stalled lovers, but Gigandet as the sheriff is saddled with a horrible role, the worst dialogue, and awkward poses. The supporting cast mostly comes from HBO shows including Stephen Moyer from True Blood and Brad Dourif from Deadwood. Christopher Plummer also pops up as the main authoritarian priest but it makes you wonder what Plummer is doing in a film like this.
Overall, the 3D is not bad, it’s pretty crisp actually. The fight scenes; however, are not up to par. There are too many cuts and edits to logically follow any particular fight with fluidity. You lose track of where the good guys and bad guys are and it usually becomes a jumbled mess until you finally see one of the bodies fall to the ground. An awful script, choppy action sequences, and direct thieving from superior genre films all lead me to persuade you to stay away from Priest.