Sunday, 15 May 2011

Priest (2011)

Review of vampire/action film Priest starring Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet and Maggie Q

Dir: Scott Charles Stewart (Legion)
Cast: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer
USA, 2011

Seen: May 13, 2011 in 2D at Rainbow

Reason to see: It's a vampire film. I pretty much see all vampire films. Plus, general love of any work by Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet and Karl Urban.

I've gone through quite an up and down of both being really excited and anticipating Priest, to becoming anti-anticipated with it's delay from 2010 release to 2011 and the lukewarm response to Legion (although that's odd as I liked Legion, and jest that I'm in the Legion of One for the film). Oddly, the time delay of the release felt like it gave me time to shake away any baggage, or even expectations, of the film. And I think that was a good thing because that allowed me to actually enjoy it!

Priest is set in a world where the Church averted an vampire apocalypse through containment via the ultimate warriors of Priests, and we see the after affects of this ultimate power. We have lots of opposites kicking around here with city sections of people ruled by fear but in contained safety versus the frontier-like wastelands that is less rigid but more lawless. Then add the people of the Priests who are now on the fringes of society, including our protagonist played by Paul Bettany who is simply referred to as Priest.

We have lots of interesting things at play here from different takes on law & order, safety & freedome and contained societies to a whole class of people who once championednow feel redundant and all in really interesting settings. This actually led to one of my favourite things about the film and oddly one of my biggest hesitations which was the art direction. I thought it looked very familiar from the trailer (a la Blade Runner, Mad Max), but I ended up loving the world and environments that were created. It had crazy urban settings that were like worn down and highly electronic to the western-feel of the open landscapes of the sandy wastelands. I absolutely loved these elements, and they really added layers to and interesting world and it's not suprizing that's there is some source material to draw from (graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung).

All that and I haven't even mentioned the plot, which has a pretty solid story although I was more won over by the world and the characters including a Priestess (Maggie Q), a frontier lawsman (Cam Gigandet), young damsel (Lily Collins) and of course vampires. In terms of being a vampire film, the vamps are in general just the monsters to fight and not actual characters which means that aspect of the film is predominately straight-up action. The action is pretty good, although there were a few moments that were hard to suspend the disbelief and might throw some people off, but I was impressed with the genre mashing of martial arts, action and a strong western influence to boot. Although the story holds it's own, it does feel at times more like a world introduction but I was okay with that as I liked the world and the characters. Paul Bettany is great at being the soulful, adept yet wandering Priest, Cam Gigandet was good as the young-but-driven sheriff and I absolutely adored Maggie Q as Priestess.

Pretty solid entertainment value, especially if you can dig the edge-of-apocalypse, sand & sorrow setting that feels like steampunk with sand instead of steam. Sandpunk! I'm glad I gave this one a chance because overall I had a lot of fun watching it.

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of vampire/action films and/or western-feel films

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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