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2011-05-12 15:37
What it's about

Set in a world ravaged by endless human-vampire wars, the Priest of the title is an agent of the tyrannical church whose sole mission has been to hunt vampires but he disobeys church law by going after - during a time of relative peace between humans and vampires - the vampires who kidnapped his niece. 

What we thought

To call Priest derivative is much like calling Gone With the Wind a bit lengthy and Mama Mia a bit silly. I very quickly lost track of the amount of films that Priest ripped off wholeheartedly. The film might be based on the Korean graphic novel by Min-Woo Hyung but it could just as easily have credited everything from Mad Max to 1984. More than anything though, Priest is essentially what would happen if you put I Am Legend, John Carpenter's Vampires and the very underrated Book of Eli into a mixer but discarded all the things about those films that actually worked.

Being horribly unoriginal is one thing, after all, but it's quite another when you mix that lack of originality with a bad script, tedious direction and absolutely no sense of fun whatsoever. What we have here is the absolute worst kind of genre offering: a patently ridiculous film that not only refuses to acknowledge its own ridiculousness but seems completely oblivious to it.

Priest features in spades everything that should make this sort of horror/ action/ fantasy/ post-apocolyptic/ western/ action genre-hybrid the most gleefully entertaining film of the year. Grizzly monsters, ferocious gunplay, hyper-active fight scenes, a killer setting, rebellion against an oppressive religious authority, ruthless priests and, of yes, a cowboy-vampire for a villain. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, everything. Everything that should be fun about the film feels tired and joyless and though it only runs a meagre 87 minutes, it feels like double that. Yes, the storytelling is weak. Yes, the dialogue is shockingly awful. Yes, the characterisation is entirely non-existent. Yes, the acting is uniformly wooden – with the sole exception of the always cool Karl Urban who looks for all the world like he's the only one having any fun as the over-the-top villain of the piece. What really rankles, though, is that it is so relentlessly dull with its stubborn refusal to crack even the smallest hint of a smile and its pathetic inability to raise any sense of excitement out of even its most hyper-kinetic of set pieces.     
Not since the similarly dire Underworld series, has a genre film failed so spectacularly to live up to its premise. Underworld already managed the seemingly impossible feat of turning its theoretically foolproof mixture of vampires, werewolves and Kate Beckinsale clad in nothing but form-fitting leather into something that failed to raise, well, much of anything at all really. Did we really need another film to try this hard to fail that spectacularly - and in pointless 3D at that.

Everything that should be fun about this film feels tired and joyless.
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