If you saw the trailer for Priest a few months back, it’s probably no big surprise when I tell you that it’s not a great movie. But here’s what might surprise you: It’s not a bad movie, either. In fact, I actually thought it was a little too short, and that’s saying something. I seriously wanted more.
Not too long ago, I reviewed a piece of shit called Dylan Dog. I bring that up because, originally, I thought that was the last of the comic book or graphic novel adaptations of 2011, with Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Thor, Green Lantern, and Cowboys and Aliens being the others. But then, I remembered something: Priest was a comic book (a manhwa, to be exact, since it was Korean), too. Jeez, Hollywood, you think that’s enough comic book characters already? No wonder there’s such a general annoyance at them these days. There are just too damn many.
Still, UNLIKE Dylan Dog, Priest actually isn’t that bad. It has some pretty nifty stuff in it that separates it from the big-boy comic book flicks, and the action is actually first-rate. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see another one of them in the future since it didn’t do that great at the box office. That’s a shame, too, because Priest actually has a lot going for it. I really looked forward to a sequel when I originally saw it in the theater, but alas, that sequel will probably never come.
The movie stars Paul Bettany as a warrior priest (yeah, you heard that right) who, at one time, was needed by civilization to banish vampires from the land. Well, after the war with the vampires was over and the blood-suckers were supposedly disposed of, the warrior priests weren’t needed any more and were forced into manual labor beneath the cities. In many ways, it’s almost making a commentary akin to veterans who were shunned once they returned from war because they weren’t needed any more. That’s actually a pretty cool concept, and if the movie had followed that storyline even deeper, it might have been a much better film. Instead, we get a decent actioner that I’m not too upset about because the action is just so damn good. Too bad it’s over too fast.
As you would suspect, the vampires aren’t gone at all and Paul Bettany fights them off again once things hit close to home. It’s your standard, “This time, it’s personal,” kind of picture, but with a steampunk aesthetic and wire kung-fu with sporadic incidences of bullet fire. Still, I would have given it more stars if it had delved deeper into the priests’ lives. Sure, we can tell that they’re miserable in their roles as priests and that it took a lot of sacrifice to become one, but what is life like for them? The whole concept of being hated by the community you protect could have been invested in more and would have provided a good alternative to the slower parts of the film. Still, if you like sci-fi action and interesting visuals, you could do worse than Priest. Much worse (*cough* Dylan Dog *cough*).
Most times with extra features, they feel superfluous. But Priest’s special features actually go the rare extra mile and make the film even better. The “Picture-in-Picture” feature has various people who worked on the film talking about the experience, with the most noteworthy comment being that they were trying to emulate the movie The Searchers. While this film isn’t even a fraction as good as that picture, you can definitely see the influence once you have that on your mind. There’s even one moment in the “deleted scenes” which is a direct nod to The Searchers. One of the characters closes a door at the end, ending the movie, which is the exact ending of the aforementioned picture. In fact, all of the deleted scenes, while not necessary, definitely add layers to the story, which is nice to see on the disc. It really DOES make it feel like a special feature.
The commentary is also pretty insightful. Sadly, like most commentaries, this one was done before any of the participants, which is the director, the writer, Paul Bettany, and Maggie Q, actually got to see how it did at the box office, so they were all very hopeful for its success. Sucks that all their hard work wasn’t appreciated. They talk about various scenes and the mythos of vampires and how it all comes together in the film. It’s fascinating. Discussing the desert landscape in “The Blood Frontier: Creating the World of Priest” and “Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles,” which is exactly how it sounds, round out the special features.