DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Priest, Unrated 3D Blu-ray (2011)

A smashing 3D visual treat for fans of this type of genre action movie, but the plot needs work.

Published on September 25, 2012

Priest, Unrated 3D Blu-ray (2011)

Cast: Paul Bettany, Lily Collins, Maggie Q, Christopher Plummer, Brad Dourif
Director: Scott Stewart
Studio: Screen Gems 38428 [8/16/11]
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1040p HD color
Audio: English or French DTS-HD MA 5.1, DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary track by filmmakers & cast, “The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest,” “Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles” (in 3D), Deleted and extended scenes, “Bullets and Crucifixes: PIP Experience,” BD-Live
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: ***½

Another action picture based on a graphic novel, this one at least breaks away from the polite vampires-among-us features and TV series, to make the vampires ugly slimy monsters without much of a face but lots of teeth. We’re in an unexplained dystopian world in which there had been a group of warrior priests trained to kill vampires who had supposedly eradicated most them, put the remaining ones in “reservations” out in the desert, and the cities are walled dark and grimy citadels in which the fascist overlords are the religious hierarchy.

There are a few who don’t cotton to life in the grim city, who live in the outlaw zone in the desert, which is sort of like a desolate town in a movie Western. There are just a few priests who are left, rejected by society (including the one played by the Chinese action-movie star Maggie Q). The one in the title role learns that his niece has been kidnapped by a merciless group of vampires who killed her parents in the outlaw zone. He can’t make the religion’s leaders—led by the Christopher Plummer role— believe him that vampires are still a threat and is threatened himself with excommunication if he leaves to go fight them. He leaves and is soon found by several other priests who are sent out by the hierarchy to kill him but join him instead. They are joined by the local gun-slinging sheriff, who is the boyfriend of the niece.

They investigate a settlement of “vampire familiars” – humans who have become slaves of the vampires who keep them alive. Of course when the sun goes down the vampires all come out. They also attack a vampire “hive.”  Their major opponent seems to be a former priest who was taken by the vampires earlier during an attack on the hive, but saved by the vampire queen. Now he is a vampire version of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, and he has assembled a trainfull of terrible vampires running on a rail line from a distant abandoned mine directly into the walled city. Will the priests be able to stop the disaster? You ask.

The Mad Max futurist world is well-conceived, and the various cycles and weapons of the priests are interesting, but the plot could use some honing. The visuals are arresting, most of all in 3D, but it gets pretty gory and bloody. It uses a mix of old and new technology, something like Brazil. There’s a big wire-assisted flying fight on top of the train of course—the sort of thing we’ve seen before. Some viewers may find the fascist-organized-religion theme distasteful, as well as the religious devices that are actually killer weapons of the priests. In general, the visual effects are the best thing about this genre movie. I ignore anything to do with zombies, but I’m willing to give a different sort of vampire movie a look at least, and this is one, even with its problems. At the end the chief priest mentions that the vampire queen was not aboard the fateful train. So that’s a line to a continuing series of this franchise for sure, and it follows that those are usually worse than the original.

—John Sunier

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