Long in development, shuffled schizophrenically from release date to release date and given a post-production conversion to 3-D, "Priest" is finally here. Critics, alas, haven't seemed to welcome its belayed arrival very warmly.
Based on a manhwa that never really connected with comics readers, the film has been dinged for its hackneyed dialogue and shallow story development. Yet "Priest" is not without its fans. Some reviewers have praised the movie's popcorn-action pleasures and starkly beautiful visual aesthetic. Weak reviews aside, the vampire flick finds itself facing off against a fanboy favorite in "Thor," and the God of Thunder (even in his second week in theaters) will easily vanquish the bloodsuckers of "Priest."
Read on for a deep dive into the reviews — the good, the bad and the ugly — of "Priest."
"['Priest'] is set in a post-apocalyptic, alternate world where a centuries-long war has waged between humans and vampires. The story follows Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany), a veteran of the vampire wars who now lives in obscurity in a walled-in city controlled by the Church (led by archbishop Christopher Plummer in a brief paycheck role). After his niece Lucy (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by the monstrous outlaw Black Hat (Karl Urban) and his pack of vampires, Priest comes out of retirement to find her before she can be turned into a bloodsucker, a decision that puts him in violation of the Church's laws and forces him to turn his back on them but not on God. Joining Priest on his Searchers-esque journey across the desert wasteland is Sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet), who is also Lucy's boyfriend, and Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q), another veteran of the vampire wars. Lots of vampire bloodletting ensues." — Jim Vejvoda, IGN.com
" 'Priest' has everything I want in dopey action-adventure cinema. It has fun motorbikes and crazy weapons and I haven't even gotten to the hot chicks. (Maggie Q may play a Priest, but she still wears leather.) It's also just original enough to prove that, yes, there are ideas lurking behind comic book movies. Forever and ever, amen." — Jordan Hoffman, UGO.com
"Given the limitations imposed by the banal dialogue, the actors comport themselves with dignity, with Bettany once again showing credible chops as an action man, although his priestly garb and tortured spiritual intensity rather confusingly evokes his villain from 'The Da Vinci Code.' Q tries to bring an air of vulnerability to a part that mostly calls for her to swing a lethal-looking fishing line around and plant bombs. Pin-up Gigandet and heavy-for-hire Urban are no better than serviceable. At least some of the supporting players, particularly Brad Dourif as a snake-oil salesman and Christopher Plummer, are lit just right to bring out the mischievous glints in their eyes." — Leslie Felperin, Variety
" 'Priest' is yet another potent demonstration of [director Scott Charles] Stewart's considerable strengths as a visual stylist. While I could've done without the CG-rendered vamps (the utilization of practicals in the close-up shots would've gone a long way in making them feel like actual threats rather than the diaphanous video-game baddies they come across as here) and the post-converted 3-D, there are several sequences of kinetic, beautifully composed action in the film — particularly in the third act speeding-train showdown — that are a five-star feast for the eyes. The widescreen vistas concocted by Stewart and cinematographer Don Burgess are also truly stunning, giving the proceedings a Leone-esque scope that is ultimately betrayed by the relative dullness of what actually happens." — Chris Eggertsen, Bloody Disgusting
The Final Word
"['Priest'] is a short, dour and stodgy creature feature with average 3D effects that draws on so many film influences from westerns, action adventures and sci-fi tales that what fun there is comes from spotting the many sources. ... Lacking marquee names and much in the way of thrills, it's unlikely to linger very long at the local multiplex and the blatant setup for a sequel after the climactic battle appears almost pitiable." — Ray Bennet, The Hollywood Reporter
Check out everything we've got on "Priest."