Ever since I got on a Maggie Q kick, the sci-fi-vampire-western Priest (2011) has been on my “to buy” list… so I’m glad I got a chance to watch it on TV for free this week, because it really wasn’t worth paying for!
First off, the premise doesn’t make a damn lick of sense: According to the (nicely animated but needlessly long) opening info-dump, a centuries long war between humans and “vampires” had devastated the planet’s surface and led to the rise of a fancy futuristic theocracy, which constructed giant walled cities, then unleashed a group of elite warriors, known as “Priests”, to subdue the “vampires”. But it’s never explained how the Priests acquired their superhuman fighting abilities… or why they need to be “priests” at all. In a proper vampire story, having a cross tattooed on your face and fighting with crucifix-shaped weapons would give you a huge advantage over the undead… but here the “vampires” are just overgrown alien attack dogs, with no heed for superstition, and no eyes to see the crosses with, even if they were afraid of them!
When the “vampires” were finally driven out of sight and mind, the Priests returned to the cities only to find themselves shunned/shamed by the civvies, and forced to take the most menial jobs just to scrape by. Which, again, is just absolute nonsense, because it’s clear that the cities still need policing and protecting… and when a bunch of beefy cops in armour rock up to arrest the hero, he dispatches them in the blink of an eye! Obviously the film-makers were trying to draw a (rather ill-advised) parallel with the way Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned to the States after that conflict, but the idea that The Church would go to the trouble of finding and training up these super-powered warriors, then make them spend their premature “retirement” shovelling shit… it’s just stoopid.
Premise aside, the dialogue was also deathly dull and perfunctory… by my reckoning, almost half the conversations that took place involved the unnamed hero (played by Paul Bettany) flat-out stating that he intended to euthanize his abducted niece if he discovered that she’d been infected by the “vampires”, while the girl’s border-town-sheriff boyfriend asserted that he would kill the Priest before letting that happen. They have this same damn argument over and over again, in a desperate attempt to stir up some tension and conflict… but it’s so repetitive that it just becomes meaningless noise after a while… and when they finally do catch up with the girl, she hasn’t been infected at all, so it was all for naught anyway. A lot of poorly scripted sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Needless to say, Q is largely wasted playing the Priest’s subordinate side-chick… although she does get to blow a big train up, and thus save the city from being over-run by “vampires”, so that’s kinda cool. The only other significant female cast member is Lily Collins, who plays the aforementioned, uninfected damsel-in-distress… but she doesn’t get to blow anything up, so there’s not much more to say about her, beyond the fact that I’m slightly obsessed with her eyebrows. In a good way, I mean… I’ve always had a thing for heavy brows, and hers are fantastic! I tried to watch Mirror Mirror on TV t’other week, but the style of humour was so off-putting I didn’t make it past the first ten minutes… nonetheless, I thought Collins looked incredible as Snow White in the trailers. Hopefully I’ll see her in a better movie soon, so I can appreciate her acting as much as her facial hair!