I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Priest (2011)

tn_priestHave you guys noticed that Paul Bettany looks like Peter Weller? I noticed that while watching this. Bettany plays an unnamed priest. This is a new one based on some Japanese comic book, it’s not that Miramax movie about the child molester. I don’t know if that’s a big problem in the world this takes place in, ’cause these priests probly don’t work with kids that much. See, an animated prologue (a much better one than in JONAH HEX) explains that humans have always been at war with vampires, not the Dracula kind but naked CGI monsters with no eyes that jump around on all fours. So the church created an order of “priests,” vampire hunters recognizable by the cross tattoos on their faces.

Eventually the priests won the war, cleared out the vampire hives and locked the remaining fuckers in underground “reservations” surrounded by a protective layer of desert. Then the church got scared of the super weapon priests they made and disbanded the order, leaving them with no purpose and with conspicuous face tattoos. Hard to interview for jobs with that. That thing would be a bitch to get off, so you better make sure you really believe it. If not you’re gonna have to be a juggalo or the Ultimate Warrior to cover it up.

But this is the story of this particular Priest finding out his daughter got kidnapped by vampires. He tries to get the Vatican (Christopher Plummer) to put together a team or call James Woods or somebody, but they refuse to authorize it because their official stance is that there are no vampires left to worry about. Priest goes by himself, even though he’s told “To go against the church is to go against God.”

“Then I go against God,” he says.

mp_priestOn his rescue mission he takes the young sheriff who told him about the kidnapping (Cam Gigandet, bad guy from NEVER BACK DOWN 1) and is later joined by Maggie Q (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) as another Priest who gets sent to stop him, but chooses not to. I like how they have what would be a love type relationship in most movies, but they’re priests so there’s no scene of them surrounded by candles making gentle no-boobs-showing love. Instead they consummate their love with motorcycle action.

There’s alot of cool shots of these long, futuristic motorcycles hauling ass through the desert, that’s probly my favorite imagery in this one. And the best action involves Maggie Q on her motorcycle chasing a train or off her motorcycle fighting some guys who are still on theirs. There’s a little part I dug where Gigandet jumps from his bike onto a train, and before he continues with his mission he takes a second to look over his shoulder and watch his motorcycle crash and flip around.

At its best it’s a western, a story about a quiet killer in a lawless land trying to do the right thing. And it’s got all the western trappings besides horses. Little gas-powered towns with sheriffs trying to stop outlaws. I wonder how long it has to be after a nuclear apocalypse or vampire plague before everybody agrees hey guys, let’s live old west style again. We’ll wear cowboy hats and other old timey clothes, we’ll have a train, we’ll have Brad Dourif as a snake oil salesman. It’ll be awesome.

Most of the vampires are naked digital bugaboos, but the main villain gets to be live action and wear a black hat. Karl Urban plays a Daywalker responsible for the kidnapping, a new step in the evolution of vampires (like they always have in these things). The vampires also have Marilyn Mansony “familiars” to do their work. (It’s illegal to be a familiar, but the law goes unenforced. Probly unconstitutional anyway.) Having these humans around is useful to the movie, but whenever they’re fighting the vampires proper it has that old CGI problem – they look pretty good, but they don’t feel right. They constantly jump and flip, they do everything fast, agile and light, while roaring into the camera. Eventually CGI characters gotta be about what’s best for them to do, not what’s possible. Listen to Jeff Goldblum, whatever that was he said about you shouldn’t make dinosaurs.

I don’t know, maybe that extra weight and grit of fighting actual on screen humans is what this movie is missing. I feel like it’s almost there. We’ve seen similar ideas in other movies, but I like this configuration. It’s simple enough in plot and dialogue, it has pretty good iconic characters, a very dramatic score by Christopher HELLRAISER Young, a serious tone, a short and sweet running time. And yet it mostly doesn’t work. It feels too dull and lifeless at the center.

The director is named Scott Stewart, an effects guy (not surprising) who previously directed LEGION. Here’s everything I remember about that movie: creepy crawly CGI demons, Lucas Black, a diner, Paul Bettany was a heavily armed angel, I think God might’ve been the bad guy. My overall impression was a muddled and stupid movie with occasional bits of “that was kinda cool.” If I had to guess I would say this one is probly closer to working because it’s more focused and streamlined. And Bettany’s character looks cooler, maybe. But that one might’ve been a little more original, I don’t know.

I’ll say this for PRIEST: the last time I tried to watch a movie because Maggie Q was in it it was just a couple weeks ago and it was called KING OF FIGHTERS. It had Ray Park as the bad guy and it was about some kind of fighting tournament where they put in ear pieces that bring them to another dimension to compete in battle. And somebody’s trying to steal a magic sword or something. As soon as it started I realized it must’ve been based on a video game, and soon after I realized it was the exact same premise as MORTAL KOMBAT except with every single entertaining or somewhat entertaining aspect removed entirely. It was just too boring. I didn’t even make it halfway through.

In PRIEST Maggie Q has a smaller role, but I watched the whole thing. Congratulations to PRIEST and Maggie Q. You earned it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, August 29th, 2011 at 11:49 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

34 Responses to “Priest (2011)”

  1. It was pretty dumb, but an easy watch, just like Legion. My biggest groan was the line they mutated from The Searchers, “if we find her and she’s infected, I’ll kill her”. Maggie Q was pretty cool.

    Another thing to remember from Legion: Bettany’s coat was pretty cool. Plus, the ice cream man.

  2. Wasn’t the animated prologue even done by Genndy Fucking Tartakovsky? (Don’t know if his middle name really is Fucking, though. I made this fact up.)

  3. I’m guessing Bettany and the director of this and LEGION must be good pals or something, otherwise Bettany really shouldn’t have been in either of these.

    There’s something about the guy’s pacing that is truly off: he seems to build and build to something in scenes and then the pay-off is literally seconds long and then it’s back to the formula.

    PRIEST should have been fun but really it’s just sub-par sci-fi, ripping off JUDGE DREDD, MAD MAX, THE SEARCHERS, spaghetti westerns and kung fu flicks, with a finale that almost but doesn’t quite pay-off.

    Bettany’s OK in it to be fair and his religio-weapons were fun but that was about it in the plus department. Oh, and it looks nice at times.

    But any film that makes me think Karl Urban is a shit actor really should be ashamed of itself.

  4. I have not read it, but I’ve heard that this is only very loosely based on the comic

    it sounds to me like it’s a lot more similar to a anime called Trinity Blood, which had post apocalyptic Priests fighting vampires, sound familiar?

    they really should have made Maggie Q’s character a badass Nun, talk about missed opportunities!

  5. The fact that the girl is his daughter is a spoiler though. The first 70 minutes he thinks she’s his niece. Wooo… mindfuck.

  6. Or wait… was it just the sheriff that thought that? Nevermind, pretty uninteresting movie anyway.

  7. Glad to see you hated THE KING OF FIGHTERS, Vern. The plot is incomprehensible and the fights are badly shot. Not even Ray Parks and Maggie Q could save that flick.

    It honestly looks like a Japanese made for TV Movie.

  8. This is exactly what I mean when I refer to A Screen Gems Movie. It’s completely uninspired, looks exactly like everything else with a blue tinted wasteland that’s probably an inexpensive location or set to shoot. Monsters that look like every other monster but also only do the same things as every other monster. The heroes only do the same action and poses they’ve seen other action heroes do yet the film takes this generic plot so utterly seriously it has no fun. I’ve never seen an Underworld movie but I imagine they are exactly like this too.

    The motorcycle sequence looked better when it was cut up in a trailer. I actually liked Legion better. For a stupid generic premise, I saw glimpses of what the filmmaker could possibly do with a better premise/budget/studio, some action scene coherence and cleverness. But I guess Priest is his dream project, the one that’s really his voice, so it turns out all he wanted to do was this.

    “making gentle no-boobs-showing love,” ain’t that the truth, Vern?

  9. Vern,

    I am here to say I finished King of Fighters and I hate myself for every fucking minute of it. You realize that Gordon Chan (director of Fist of Legend) directed that, right? And it was miserable. How’d that happen?

    I guess I am going to give that Nikita series a shot, since it appears no one thus far has figured out what to do with Maggie.

    Oh, and as far as Priest is concerned, I pretty well agree with the review and the comments thus far. It had potential, it had some cool shots, but it had zero sense of narrative flow.

  10. I would have seen this movie if Christopher Plummer played every member of the Vatican, Eddie Murphy style.

  11. Um I thought that it was okay. I was kind of sad for in the priest in the movie. After all they went through for humanity they still get no respect. It must suck to go from a hero to a zero.

    I love how the clergy was so corrupt and so cultist. I wonder if the catholic church should get electric confessionals. It might cut down on the amount of priest that molest little boys.

    I normally have a big thing for Karl Urban. I think he’s a great actor. But I didn’t like him in this movie. He didn’t talk or act much. It seemed like all they did was pose him dramatically.

    Oh and If they wanted Clint Eastwood they should have just got him. Not put Karl in clothes that they stole from the set of the Good the Bad and the Ugly.

  12. Bullshit. Juggalos don’t have jobs.

  13. there’s actually a lot of anime and manga about Catholics kicking ass, I guess because Catholicism is foreign and exotic to them (only 1% of the population are Christian in Japan, which is kind of incomprehensible to me living in the south)

    one such example besides the aforementioned Trinity Blood is the anime and manga Chrono Crusade, which is about a order of Nuns with supernaturally enhanced guns who shoot (aka “exorcise”) demons, why that couldn’t have been turned into a movie when it’s ironically a lot better known and popular than the Priest comic I don’t know

  14. also fun fact: one of the characters from my favorite anime of all time (R.O.D The TV) is named after Maggie Q

  15. HELLSING also has the most badass catholic character ever with Paladin Anderson.
    Speaking of Christopher Plummer, I saw the trailer for the remake of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO the other day, in front of COWBOYS AND ALIENS, and while I had no fucking clue what it was advertising until they showed the tattoo, I was still strangely pumped for whatever the hell the movie was, despite being baffled. Good sign?

  16. Oh shit, KING OF FIGHTERS is the same director as FIST OF LEGEND? I didn’t realize that. That’s bumming me out.

    I heard the NIKITA show is pretty good, but I haven’t seen it. It comes out on dvds and rays of blu this week I believe.

  17. now Hellsing is what they should make a movie based on

    seriously, Hellsing is awesome, it contains among other things vampire Nazis living in a giant zeppelin

  18. Okay, now I want to see this just to see how much of an “homage” it is to The Searchers, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. The niece-daughter connection is a direct lift from something that is heavily implied in the The Searchers.

    And Christopher Plummer was hot in The Sound of Music. That is all.

  19. OK I hate to be the one who has to ask this but what in God’s name is up with that poster of Maggie Q? At least with Seagal films, they just photoshop his head onto someone’s body. This looks like they’re shooting Maggie’s body through a fun house mirror.

  20. Vern, when are you going to review Seagal’s TRUE JUSTICE films? They’ve been 3 or 4 of them out so far.

  21. Haven’t seen King of Fighters, but I did watch that Tekken movie, mostly because it features a South African girl called Candice Hillebrand who used to be a kiddie show presenter but is now trying to get a break in Hollywood (she’s the one playing the “hot” blonde in the purple skintight number). Some buddies and I thought we’d turn the movie into a drinking game and down a beer or drink a shot every time she’s on screen and does/says something stupid.

    It wasn’t worth it.

  22. Sorry to go off topic, but I promised I would post here when I knew about any screenings of Blood Shot. Well, it got accepted into the Atlanta Horror Film Festival and you can catch it on September 15th at 8pm if you are in the area (“the area” being Atlanta).

    Check it out if you can, I’d love to hear some feedback from some fellow fans of Badass Cinema.

    (now to read Vern’s review of Priest and discover if I just want to see it or if I really, REALLY want to see it)

  23. Are True Justice a tv-series? I saw a commercial of it on a tv-channel in my country right know, that suppose to premier this week. So it’s a series of film or a tv-series? Was it that show that was cancelled before it went on tv and they are releasing the episode as films=

  24. Griff, I thought Maggie from R.O.D the TV was named after Maggie Cheung? and her sisters for Anita Mui and Michelle Yeoh respectively; ’90s Hong Kong movie references like them calling the messenger pigeon Mr Woo? I wouldn’t like to say whether one Maggie was more awesome than the other though. Hellsing is way too much for Hollywood, it’s some of the most amazing exploitation I’ve seen, proof that you can do *anything* to Nazis and still be the hero.

    I was interested in Priest until I tried (and failed) to watch Legion. I do wonder if Bettany didn’t get to marry Jennifer Connelly as a result of a terrible Faustian pact to make this kind of movie. It’s important to have good actors who will make weird action or horror movies, like Thomas Jane seems happy to, but Bettany is on a pretty poor run lately.

  25. Is Paul Bettany ever going to be in a good movie again? Master and Commander is the last one I can remember. It’s getting to the point where if I see him in a movie, I know to avoid it because i’m about 99% sure its going to suck. If he sold his movie soul for Jennifer Connelly, he could have at least sold if for the Rocketeer version.

  26. Thomas – nobody believes me, but I actually liked The Tourist. I also had no idea Bettany was even in it at first because I don’t think I ever saw him in any of the commercials. But yeah, you’re right- he’s been in a lot of stinkers. (Not like Firewall, Wimbledon, or Davinci Code were his fault or anything).

  27. Ghost – True Justice was made as a TV series, but it was never picked up by a network or syndicated, so instead they released the first two episodes in Europe as “Deadly Crossing,” the two after that as “Street Wars” and there’s another one scheduled after that. But yes, I read that it’s about to start airing in its original form as a TV series on digital channels in a few countries.

    Weirdly it has not come out as a TV show or as movies in the U.S.

  28. When this movie first came out, I read about the Korean comic it’s based on and it’s painfully obvious it has little to do with the source material. There are no fucking vampires in it, for one thing, and I believe a portion of the story actually does take place in the Old West. It’s not like “Priest” is something everyone knows about, so why buy the rights to a well-respected property and just make up a bunch of shit when you actually adapt it for the screen?

  29. AU_Armageddon (Formerly The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    September 9th, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Priest, Solomon Kane, Jonah Hex etc. etc. I watch em all but can’t tell em much apart these days. I figure these are the exact equivelent version of road movies we had in the olden days with like Smokey and Bandit, Every Which Way but Loose, Cannonball Run, Smokie Rides Again, Every Which We We Can, Cannonball Run 2… ever since Van Helsing or so I think.

    Anyways, I’m more here to post about King of Fighters and comments like this “Glad to see you hated THE KING OF FIGHTERS, Vern.” What the fuck does this kind of shit even mean? I see this every now and then here and I am truly baffled. Is it that people only feel validated if Vern hates something and until then it must remain a dirty secret? I dun get the general movie hate part either.

    Look, I’m not arguing the “What did you expect ‘Schindler’s List’?!” here. But just wanna point out for people that even King of Fighters had a lot of cool things going for it. I enjoyed it. Lemme try share why:

    – I cut it slack cos it’s immediately obvious it had a tight budget and tighter schedule. Chan’s not a noobie but not exactly talentquest material either – you got clues like the dude from Never Back Down was fine in that but unbearable in this. Ray Parks was atrocious – but that was shitty directing in EXACTLY the same way that Jeremy Irons was overacting in Dungeons and Dragons, yet great in Die Hard 3. Maggie Q is Maggie Q which brings me to:

    – Maggie Q – really quite watchable.

    – Add Maggie Q in a corset and you should really have some bonus points (not in this ‘community’, I get that, just giving my reasons).

    – Add the Lesbians – inexplicably immortal lesbians – also in corsets – okay again, not this community sure – but at least it’s pro-homo ya?

    – Pro-nerdest – which combined with the pro-gay makes this MJW’s (seeNBD2) most hated movie – and explains why you turned it off in disgust halfway through Vern. This movie is actually seriously pro-nerd. The fights are not really champion fighter fights, but the kind of fights nerds have, mostly lame and in their heads. I really like that. The lines are the lines nerds use to i.e. first fight Maggie says something along the lines of “nice coat, your mother loan it to you?”, and his great nerd comeback is “it was a gift”. lololol.

    – Breaking tropes – In addition to corsets, I give bonus points to anything that breaks the lamest tropes, particularly deeply…deeply ingrained tropes in the action genre. I loved how Faris came up behind Parks for what in any other movie would be the final (final) blow, and as they always do, gives away his position and action with the heroic “Play with this” punchline – and Ray, who would normally go down at this end point of the lengthy finale, instead turns around hearing the line, and then dodges it and knocks him away.

    – Bonus points for the weirdass creepy ball-of-snakes thing. Presumably a video game reference but never played it so just creepy and weird and kinda cool to me.

    – Bonus points for bizarre way of holding the tournament and travelling there. Was outside the usual boxes a little.

    – Bonus points for the cool plan of Ray to have the lesbo come back and call everyone and tell them they could still play the game, lolol, hilarious scene.

    – Triple bonus points for the fact that at the end of the day – Ray Parks is actually THE GOOD GUY! He won the original tournament fair and square and the asian dudes dad fucking CHEATED! He wouldn’t give Parks the prize he actually legitimately earned. Then, to rub salt in the wound, asian dude himself proves to be a cheater as well as his dad. Cherry blossom dun fall far from the bonsai. And the art show asian chick is also a cheat in support of these cheating assholes. Ray Parks never did anything wrong!

    But yeah, it was rushed and low budget so there’s better movies out there sure. Give the second half a watch some day. You will still be sorry but will prolly be entertained by the final scene (that middle hump’s the slowest part), and then maybe at least you could do felix a favour by whipping away his security blanket leaving his ass hangin in the breeze (Majestyk puns unneccessary).

  30. Well, I might still skip KING OF FIGHTERS, but I’ve got NAKED WEAPON queued up for Monday. Tagline: They will seduce you — just before they kill you!

    Maggie Q as an assassin in a movie directed by the guy who did Seagal’s BELLY OF THE BEAST… yes, please. It might suck, but this is a mistake I’ll be glad to make.

  31. Mouth – please pass on KoF; it’s so bad it will make you HATE ALL FILMS.

    NAKED WEAPON is fun stuff, though.

  32. NAKED WEAPON is decent, but not really all that hard-hitting. Plus, the sex scene is one of those deals where the boobs are like super-glued to the dude’s chest so all you get is sideage.

    NAKED KILLER is more hardcore. Both are better than SO CLOSE.

  33. Mr M – yes, NAKED KILLER is still a trash classic, even after all these years.

    SO CLOSE was a big let down, considering the talent on that.

    Remember when Shu Qi looked like she was gonna be big?

    (Must resist saying “She came SO CLOSE”.)

    Did it. Well done.

  34. NAKED WEAPON is a lot of fun. It’s about girls who are kidnapped and kind of brainwashed and they learn how to fight and use their bodies to get close to their assassination targets, so obviously, as we learned with SUCKER PUNCH and with every work of art that features women doing both violence and sexy times, the whole thing has to be either empowerment or exploitation. If NAKED WEAPON were a 2011 American film, I’m sure there’d be loads of online outrage.

    Luckily, the section that deals with 12 year old girls running through the water and doing kicks and sharing bunkbeds passes pretty quickly, so I was able to feel non-icky when it got to the part where, as 18-19 year olds, they’re ordered to kill each other. Actually, there’s at least 2 scenes where a bunch of girls are ordered to kill each other.

    While still at the secret kidnapped-child-assassin-training camp, one chick thinks she’s good friends with one of the best fighter chicks, so when they get tossed with several other girls & weapons into a cage and forced to fight everyone in a winner-take-all tournament to the death, she offers to team up with her. “I’ll watch your back. Together, we’ll be invincible.”

    Then the girl she thinks she’s friends with stabs her with a machete. “I *am* invincible.”

    It was awesome. Invincible girl became my hero in that moment. Shame she turns out to be the supposed bad guy, which is as criminal a plot contrivance as making Iceman the bad guy when clearly Maverick is the one who sucks.

    Anyway, half the fights turn into video game shit, which I can get with, and a lot of times the fighters are swiping at each other but don’t even come within 2 feet of doing any damage, which is something I can’t really get with. No shaky cam or quick cuts, but the geography of movements and the timing of when a person goes from bursting through a window/ceiling tile to punching a guy in the neck or whatever suggests to me that the filmatists were going for the essence of a good action scene rather than an actual good fight. The ingredients are there, but a lot of times they don’t bother to put them in a dish and bake at 350 Fahrenheit like I would prefer.

    There’s great symbolism when one assassin tosses Maggie Q’s framed family photos at her like sharp, squared frisbees of death. All in one slow motion motion, Maggie chops them to bits and returns glass shards to the other lady assassin’s face. For a few seconds, it reminded me of the best part of KUNG FU HUSTLE, the fight with the musical waves of energy. Even Seagal was never so precise with a piece of broken glass.

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