So I had a few minutes to spare and looked around some of the DVR recordings I made over the last month or two and found, among them, a recording of the 2011 film Priest.
Why was it there? I admit, I was mildly curious about the film and was vaguely aware that it was based on a Korean Manga of some note. Was also aware the film came and went pretty abruptly from theaters.
Wasn’t aware that the film featured Karl Urban in the bad guy role and (really surprising) veteran actor Christopher Plummer in a smaller role as a head priest.
The plot? Post apocalyptic sideways world where vampire creatures and humans have battled for years. The Priests are essentially the Church’s badasses, devout vampire killers who, as the story begins, are considered past their prime. It is believed the vampire menace is over.
For the first hour or so of the film, I enjoyed the film quite a bit. The visuals were outstanding and the story presented was a decent “B” movie adventure. After that first hour, I began wondering why this film was ranked so low on Rottentomatoes.com, where it earned an extremely low 17% approval from critics and an equally poor 36% from audiences (you can read the rankings here). Could the critics and audiences have been wrong? Was my taste in movies taking a serious nosedive?
Then came the movie’s second half and those poor ratings were explained away rather well.
For you see, if Priest were a novel, everything presented within the movie would have been a prologue to a (potentially) far more interesting story. What story we have is, in the end, woefully undernourished, a tale of a one-time Priest turned vampire attempting to assault the “big city”. His plan is to steal our protagonist’s daughter and force him to chase after him for no real reason at all. Revenge I suppose, but really…
It all makes little sense in the end. Karl Urban is wasted as the villain. He’s by far the most interesting character in the film but when all is said and done is given so little time to do his villain thing that you wonder why they bothered. Worst example of this? The bad guy’s face off against three Priests, a sequence that should have been shown in its full glory (Priest is an action film, right?!) and is instead absurdly abbreviated. I’m not exaggerating when I say this potentially explosive “action sequence” goes like this: The three Priests meet up with Karl Urban’s bad guy. One of them runs at him and is killed by bad guy in literally one second. We cut away from the fight and, a few minutes later, our protagonist arrives in the town where this fight occurred and sees the fight’s aftermath and the three dead Priests. What happened to the other two Priests we have to fill in the blanks with our imagination.
Again, this is an action film, right?
Watching Priest, I had the feeling the director felt uncomfortable with showing too much action.
Anyway, by film’s end we are informed that there is some vampire queen out there and that the battle has “just begun”, ie, the real story is coming in the movie’s sequel.
Given the movie’s performance at the box office, you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that sequel to materialize.