Directed by Scott Stewart, Written by Cory Goodman and Min-Woo Hyung (comic book), 87 minutes, Rated PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matt Schimkowitz
Here’s the pitch: Based on a Korean comic book, a group of humanoid, non-Pattinson-like vampires attack a steam-punk, western village, forcing a Vampire-hunting priest out of retirement in 3D. You can fill in the holes from there.
While the idea of an ass-kicking, vampire-slaying preacher may be an easy sell for some, without any sense of fun or fear, “Priest,” the bearer of the aforementioned pitch, falls limply to the ground.
To fill in the gaps, Paul Beatney stars as said priest, one of the final members of an ancient order charged with keeping the vampire population at bay. Yet, after successfully throwing the last of the fanged menaces in prison, the clergy, in all their infinite, Big Brother-like wisdom, casts the priests back into society without a whim. So, when the vampires return to kidnap Beatney’s daughter, Priest hops on his steam-powered motorbike and heads into the desert.
There’s very little life to “Priest,” with each conflict seemingly more disinterested in entertaining the audience than the last. One half of this has to do with the looming threat of the Orwellian clergy, which controls the drones of the film’s steam punk cities. The clergy doesn’t want their top assassin to investigate a nearby, suspiciously vampire-like attack for some reason. Why even include this into the story, if, in the end, it has no bearing on or threat to the overall narrative? The other half is the boring pursuit of Beatney’s daughter.
Beatney doesn’t seem as confused as the audience does, but that doesn’t mean he makes for an engaging star. Certainly excelling in the physical necessities of the film, the actor can’t strike an emotional chord with either his daughter or his forbidden love interest, Priestess (Maggie Q). The film’s attempts at one-liners and humor fall even flatter, as the gloomy, moist interiors absorb each quip like a sponge.
There’s not much to “Priest” that engages the audience. Aside from some fireworks, Urban appears to be the only one having a good time with the material, but as the villain, he’s allowed to. Still, it’s hard to get behind the hero, when he has no interesting qualities. In fact, all those explosions and expository conversations kept a well-behaved infant, whom I observed entering theater with their father at the show’s beginning, sleeping comfortably throughout the film’s 87 minutes. If you have an action movie that doesn’t have enough loud, wham-bam, explosive fun to wake a sleeping baby, then you, my friend, have an action movie not worth seeing.