Year of release: 2011
Director: Scott Stewart
Action directors: Lance Gilbert, Mike Gunther, Marcus Young
Producers: Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, Mitchell Peck, Nicolas Stern
Writer: Cory Goodman
Cinematography: Don Burgess
Editing: Lisa Churgin, Rebecca Weigold
Music: Christopher Young
Stars: Paul Bettany, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Cam Giganet, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer
Rated PG13 for violence and language
This DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment looks and sounds great for the most part, with the film presnted in anamorphic widescreen at 2.40:1. Available audio tracks (which are in Dolby 5.1) include English and French, with English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The disc is packed with a good number of bonus features, which includes film-makers and cast commentary, two behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted/extended scenes, and trailers for the the film and several other Sony releases.
The DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray are available from Amazon. The film can also be rented or purchased via their video on demand service.
Movie Review Index
Two of the current flavors du jour of American mass-market cinema are vampires and comic book adaptations. Scott Stewart's picture Priest combines both of these elements, as it is based off of Min-Woo Hyung's vampire-themed graphic novel of the same name. The cinematic output also feels like a bit of a mash-up, as it seems to straddle several lines, from science fiction to action to horror.
When Priest is firing on all cylinders, it is a fun and inventive take on your usual vampire picture. But, unfortunately, too often for its' own good, this is a film that feels like it is simply going through the motions, rather than trying to make any unique footprint for itself.
Priest takes place in a dystopian alternate future, where mankind has recently won a long fight against a horde of vampires. The victory was spurned by a group of specially-trained priests, the fact of which the Christian church uses to keep the populace at bay by keeping most of them enclosed in a huge walled city, where mandatory servitude to the church is the order of the day.
One of these priests (Paul Bettany) is contacted by a small-town sheriff (Cam Gigandet) after a remote outpost is attacked and a young woman (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires. The church (led by Christopher Plummer) doesn't want people to know that the vampire threat still exists, and so they bar him from leaving the city. But because the young woman is his niece, his disobeys his superiors' orders and heads off into the wastelands of civilization, with the sheriff and one of his former proteges (Maggie Q) in tow.
To its' credit, Priest does have a lot of good things going for it. For starters, it is a very slick and technically well-made film. Director Scott Stewart's background is primarily in visual effects (in films that include John Woo's Red Cliff) and that pays off in scenes that are often very sumptous, if sometimes a bit derivative of other movies, such as Blade Runner -- something that Stewart, perhaps not coicidentally, also worked on.
The action, for the most part, is solid and fairly exciting. The priests are given are variety of inventive weapons (such as mini-crucifixes that change into shurikens) to work with, which are put to use in fights that often have a surprisingly bloody end, given that this is a PG13 release. And it was refreshing to see a mainstream American film that didn't subscribe to the too close and too fast "MTV-style" editing that plaugues many modern releases.
On the other hand, while there is nothing pointedly bad with Priest, for some reason, it never seems to rise above the realm of the slightly above average. Most of this can be put at the foot of its' pacing, which involves far too many scenes with the participants riding their motorcycles from point A to point B, or with them putting everything to a halt so that someone can give out some painfully obvious expositional dialogue.
Overall, though, the good here outweighs the bad. While it's not a classic film in any sense, for good brainless fun, you could do a whole lot worse than this. Offering up good special effects, fun fights, and a bit of a different take on the vampire mythos, Priest should fit the bill for action junkies looking for something off of the beaten path in their journeys to the local Redbox.