All AMC Shows
Movies on AMC
Priest is a 2011 American post-apocalyptic science fiction action film starring Paul Bettany as the title character. The film, directed by Scott Stewart, is based on the Korean comic of the same name. In an alternate world, humanity and vampires have warred for centuries. After the last Vampire War, the Catholic priest and veteran Warrior Priest (Bettany) lives in obscurity with other humans inside one of the Church's walled cities. When the Priest's niece (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires, the Priest breaks his vows to hunt them down. He is accompanied by the niece's boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), who is a wasteland sheriff; and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q). The film first entered development in 2005, when Screen Gems bought the spec script by Cory Goodman. In 2006 Andrew Douglas was attached to direct and Gerard Butler was attached to star. They were eventually replaced by Stewart and Bettany in 2009 and filming started in Los Angeles, California, later in the year. The film changed release dates numerous times throughout 2010 and 2011. It was especially pushed back from 2010 to 2011 to convert the film from 2D to 3D.
Paul Bettany is the title character, a forcibly retired member of a Church-based warrior squad. Utilized during the latter part of the ages old battle between humans and vampires, he and his kind are responsible for an uneasy peace between the parties. But when his niece (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by a band of rogue creatures, he teams up with a wasteland sheriff (Cam Gigandet) to try and save her. This makes the head Monsignor (Christopher Plummer) unhappy, and he threatens the Priest with excommunication if he acts. In the meantime, a mysterious figure named Black Hat (Karl Urban) plans to use the girl as part of his plan to overthrow the fortress like cities. All he needs is a train full of vampire soldiers...and one reluctant old friend in religious garb.
Priest is a movie where there is too much of some things and clearly not enough of others. The whole rewritten vampire lore, with its excreted hives, monstrous queens, and cadre of familiars and hulking guardians is so underexplored and underutilized that it's close to a crime. Along with the mythology surrounding the Church and its Priest assassins, this is the best thing in an otherwise ordinary storyline. For a while, Stewart exploits what he has. We get wonderful moments within the future shock cityscapes, nice touches when Gigandet and Bettany come upon the first neckbiter "reservation", and a scattering of subtle, satiric detail about life in this alternative dystopia.
But then the cash grabbing needs of the popcorn movie machine step in and ruin everything. While Stewart didn't show a lot of vision with his last post-apocalyptic effort - the truly god-awful Legion - the affront to what he's creating here is blatant. It's as if first time scriptwriter Cory Goodman fell for every studio suit trap and halted anything fun for more lax love story, more meaningless Black Hat monologues, and more illogical action scenes. It's like watching a campfire tale being forced into the latest stale CG spectacle. Even the casting can't cooperate. Bettany is good, Collins is not. Urban is utterly wasted, while Gigandet can't decide if he's playing a hero or a hindrance.
Yet there are times when none of this matters, when the movie Priest wants to be blisters through the bubble wrap of a typical Summer stinker. When Priest and his protégé tear through the desert wilderness on their hyper-motorbikes, the landscape can be stunning. Similarly, a conversation held in the shadow of a ruined metropolis argues for excellence. Even the horrid monsters, made fake and foolish via the latest in animation technology, can register as a real threat, when allowed. But Stewart never really explores the spaghetti western dynamic inherent here. Instead, he hints at it before slinking back to heroes and vein-draining villains.
As a result, Priest is an exasperating experience of wasted opportunities. There should have been more crucifix-based weaponry and theological angst, not forced familial drama and supernatural scenery chewing. It could have been epic. Now, it's just half-empty eye candy.