Priest: Movie Review

I was really looking forward to seeing Priest the day it came out on DVD. I watched the trailer on YouTube and I was hooked.

I ran out to The Zombie Serengeti (aka The Walmarts) as soon as I could and snagged me a copy.

After a few false starts (the old coal-burning computer with the water-cooled monitor and the hamster-driven DVD was acting up), I sat down in the old wingback armchair and prepared to be amazed.

Let me start off by saying that Priest is an very unusual blend of post-apocalyptic dystopia, gunslinger western, vampyre-slayer action flick, futuristic motorcycle movie and supernatural monster horror thriller. Now that’s a lot to pack into one movie! Based on the critically acclaimed Korean manhwa graphic novel of the same name [1], Priest is the story of an outcast Priest warrior who goes into exile in order to rescue his niece from vampires. So far, so good.

(This one doesn’t sparkle like Edward Cullen)

OK… here’s the deal. Humans and vampyres (not human vampyres but blind eyeless monster vampyres) have been battling each other for a dozen centuries, destroying the earth in the process. Outposts of humanity exist. There is a walled city ruled by The Church, who organized an elite corp of Warrior Priests specially trained for killing vampyres. Most vampyres were killed and the rest put in ‘reservations’… basically prisons. The rest of the world outside the walled city is a wasteland that reminds one very much of the wild west, only set in the crumbling ruins of what was once a modern city.

According to the synopsis: A legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants of the walled city. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on an obsessive quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece’s boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff… and a former Warrior Priestess who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.

I’ll say it again… that is an awful lot of crap to put into one movie! And sadly, I think the movie suffers for it. Blade Runner meets Mad Max meets Underworld meets Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns meets Van Helsing meets the Star Wars Jedi knights meets Judge Dredd… meets… meets… meets… !!  The movie is OK. But I didn’t want it to be OK. I wanted it to be great! Priest looks fantastic. The effects are amazing. The CGI work is superb. Technically, it is spot on… whether we are in the dark overcast walled city or in the depths of the vampyre hive or in the western desert town or on the train speeding across the flats… the movie looks fantastic. And the acting is good too. Maybe not Oscar-winning good… but good.

(Vampyre Slayer Jedi Knight Priestess)

And yet, it falls flat. It disappoints. And the disappointment is more keenly felt because Priest held out such promise. I wanted it to be an amazing movie… and it just didn’t deliver. It let me down. It stood me up.

At the end of Priest, it is abundantly clear that they kept the door wide open for sequels. And yes, I’ll probably go back for more, like the one who believes all the reassurances of “this time it will be better, I promise!” I just hope I don’t end up like Charlie Brown, forever running to kick the football only to have Priestess Lucy pull it away at the last minute. I can be a real sucker that way.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been a long time since my last movie heartbreak. This is my sin. 😦

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[1] Published in English by Tokyopop.

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