Sometimes, I get the feeling Paul Bettany is determined to go down in the annals of moving picture history as the next Bela Lugosi. While such a goal is admirable to say the least, it sets him up for actually becoming the next Bela Lugosi in the process: a wonderful character actor that ultimately wasted his career by accepting any and every part offered to him. The Da Vinci Code, Legion, Firewall: they all sucked — and helped to paint an imperfect picture of the actor in the minds of moviegoers in the process.
2011’s Priest — a live-action adaptation of a Korean manhwa (comic) — is not much of an exception. The story, set in an alternate history of Earth (or at least something that looks kinda like it) fuses the horror, fantasy and western genres and pits man against vampire. But neither faction is ordinary. The vampires are ruled by a queen and governed by a “human vampire” played by Keith, um Karl Urban. The good guys — priests — are devoted servants of that God fellow who have been trained in the art of dispatching the bloodsuckers from the face of the planet — and are governed by Christopher Plummer (another actor who seemingly accepts any role he’s offered).
At best, Priest is decent afternoon movie fare. The story and its universe isn’t engulfing enough that it will assimilate a throng of fanboys (of course, you never know with fanboys), while the acting and dialogue definitely leave a lot to be desired (especially that Karl Urban guy: who’s acting here is ever worse than usual if such a thing is possible) — even to b-movie lovers like myself. It sure as hell doesn’t instill me with a great deal of confidence as far as Paul Paul Bettany’s career goes, that’s for sure. Maggie Q (whose family was so poor, they couldn’t even afford a complete last name) co-stars as a Priestess, while The O.C. reject Cam Gigandet, Brad Dourif and Alan Dale (what, two actors from The O.C.?) turn in forgettable supporting parts.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released Priest from his confessional in a stellar 1080p High-Definition presentation. The film’s atmosphere has a very cold and dreary post-apocalyptic environment to it, which is represented perfectly here with a wonderful transfer. Detail is very fine, while colors and black levels are extremely strong. An English DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack also delivers — making this mediocre movie at least interesting enough to check out just so you can give your stereo a workout; French and Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks are also included, as are optional English (SDH), French and Spanish subtitles.
Special features include a picture-in-picture feature called “Bullets and Crucifixes” and audio commentary with director Scott Stewart, writer Cory Goodman, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q. There are also some deleted/extended scenes, as well as some behind-the-scenes featurettes and a couple of trailers and promos.
In short: as far as vampire films go, Priest can’t even suck itself off.