"Blade Runner," "The Searchers, " "1984"—all touchstones of American cinematic and literary greatness, which might lead you to believe a mash-up of the trio would create a super-flick, one of unfathomable brilliance and profound meaning.
You would be wrong.
Adapted from the Korean comic, "Priest" is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans and vampires have warred for centuries, finding awkward peace when the remaining living move inside walled cities overseen by the Church while vampires are contained on reservations.
How do you know that? Thanks to a roughly hewn animated prologue that looks hastily thrown together and does little to inspire confidence in the film to follow.
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But here's what you learn, after the last Vampire War, Priests were abandoned by the people they'd sworn to protect (it's a thinly veiled nod to soldiers after the Vietnam War), while the Church, which broadcasts loops of sermons Big Brother-style around the city, runs everything and those who wish to survive must follow, leading us to wonder, what happened to all the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or, dare we ask, agnostics after the war.
Regardless, a veteran Priest (Paul Bettany, doing what seems to be an amalgam of his roles in "The Da Vinci Code" and "Legion") is re-enlisted for his warrior ways when his niece (Phil's daughter, Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires. With her boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) and a former Warrior Priestess ("Nikita" star Maggie Q, who has a few moments of Thornbirds-ish tempered lust with Bettany), the trio strikes out for a rescue mission of vengeance, against the orders of the Church.
Predictable and underwhelming, the film's strengths lie in Bettany's acting abilites, Karl Urban's zeal at barring his fangs as a baddie cowboy vampire, and the aesthetic of the barren wasteland director Scott Stewart ("Legion") created to stage his post-apocalyptic Western. Still, the film fails to startle with vampires that are less fearsome than tiresome, cartoonish CGI, and a needless post production 3D conversion that doesn't do the shaky script any favors.