‘Priest’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 21st, 2011 at 11:01 pm,

Priest 3D Review Priest Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Priest 3D

Priest, the 2011 film that reteams director Scott Stewart with Paul Bettany (the pair directed and starred in Legion, respectively), is an adaptation of the Korean comic series of the same name by Hyung Min-woo. However, the Priest of Korean print tells a very different story than that of its Hollywood movie counterpart. Instead of battling fallen angels, the American Priest fights beastly vampires – who sleep in coffins and keep humans as pets.

That said, plenty of comic book-turned-movie adaptations have benefited from creative liberties here and there. While Stewart’s Priest has certainly taken more liberties than most – it’s still possible that the final film is better for the alterations, right?

Unfortunately, Priest joins other lackluster films (such as My Soul to Take) that were delayed upon completion and retrofitted with post-converted 3D to help attract audiences to a film that otherwise has very little going for it – aside from a few slow-motion-heavy action set pieces. The alteration to the core Priest storyline (originally about an undead pilgrim who is reborn after merging with a supernatural force) creates one of the weirdest narrative mishmashes in recent memory.

One of the most disappointing aspects of Priest is the shameless lack of world-building. In case you’re unfamiliar, the film takes place in a (potentially) fascinating alternate world where humans and beastly vampires have warred for centuries (The Crusades, World War II, etc) – though the film never takes advantage of this foundation. To turn the tide, the Church unleashes “the Priests,” humans with super-human-like reflexes, who drive the vampires into exile.

Humanity takes shelter in large fortified Church-run cities, and instead of eradicating the vampires altogether, the creatures of the night are quarantined in concentration camp-like facilities, while the Priests are forced to live in obscurity, since the church fears the warriors might rebel against the aging religious regime. This status quo is sustained until a vampire attack on a farming community sends Bettany’s Priest on a journey of revenge which opposes the will of the church leaders, who (predictably) have become vain and subsequently brand Priest a trouble-maker, electing to ignore the vampire threat and attack the  noble warrior instead.

Vampires in Priest 3D Priest Review

The Vampires of Priest 3D

As mentioned, the film never really takes advantage of anything more than the most basic settings and story beats – never really touching on the vampire strata (i.e., that there’s more than one kind), the day-to-day lives of the surviving humans, or what could be an interesting juxtaposition in the character of Priest (a man of faith who enjoys killing). Instead, the film focuses on the cliché story of a “true” man of faith who must do God’s work – in spite of a vacuous and incompetent church organization. Even though the basic plot isn’t particularly fresh, Priest still had room to capitalize on its less-conventional aspects, given the film’s dystopian Western setting and intriguing mix of modern/traditional vampire tropes. Unfortunately, the movie is too one-note to take advantage of anything but a linear race to the final Priest-on-vampire battle.

While the phrase “Priest-on-vampire battle” might sound epic and exciting, the film manages to underwhelm even in the one area that many action fans were looking forward to –the action. Sadly, there are really only about three action set-pieces in the film and the first one is (by far) the best; after that strong start, the film never manages to regain momentum. Despite a couple of isolated fight sequences during the climax, the whole thing mostly goes out in a non-sensical whimper (especially if you’re Cam Gigandet’s character, Hicks).

While it might sound like brow-beating, the problems with the story and action sequences are largely predicated on the film’s ability to make even a character as (theoretically) badass and (potentially) interesting as Priest into a complete bore. Similarly, Karl Urban’s “Black Hat” is kept in the shadows so long that, by the time he’s fully revealed, it has already become clear that there’s very little substance to the character – or his backstory. Gigandet (best known as James from Twilight) plays a Western Lawman (the aforementioned Hicks) who provides a few entertaining moments, but mostly serves as a foil for Priest, and an excuse for Bettany to deliver heavy exposition about the in-and-outs of vampire hunting.

Paul Bettany in Priest 3D Priest Review

Paul Bettany in Priest 3D

Even the more successful character moments are undermined by some of the most clichéd and heavy-handed dialogue in recent memory. Priest just mutters generalities under his breath; Black Hat spouts the Greatest Hits of essential villainous platitudes –  “You’ve done well” and “I’m counting on it”; Maggie Q (who plays her usual contemplative female warrior role) has the only heartfelt and (almost) charismatic dialogue in the film. Sadly though, the lack of execution with the rest of the project makes even the moments between Priest and Q’s Priestess come across as overly-melodramatic.

Similar to the film’s twist (which has very little bearing on the emotional complexity of the story), the 3D in Priest is entirely unnecessary and is one of the more egregious attempts at selling audiences on a mess of a film by slapping post-converted 3D on it. The 3D itself doesn’t fail as bad as the infamous Clash of the Titans post-conversion but it’s still entirely unnecessary and only succeeds in not making the film any worse than it would be – except for the higher ticket price.

Inevitably, some action fans will read this review and say something along the lines of, “It’s just an action movie – it doesn’t need character development or competent dialogue.” and I somewhat agree. In some cases, it’s fair to overlook whether a movie is technically good, in favor of it being immensely entertaining (Fast Five is a good example). However, Priest is an especially lousy action movie with very little compelling action, boring characters, and a convoluted plot, all put together by a group of filmmakers who failed entirely at capitalizing on the more compelling aspects of the core concept. And given that they had an extra year to get the film into theaters (it was originally set for an August 27th 2010 release), it’s only more disappointing that most that was done to try to salvage the wreckage was tempting audiences with a post-conversion 3D gimmick.

That said, if there’s one thing Priest gets right, it’s Genndy Tartakovsky’s beautiful animated prologue – which you can view FOR FREE in its entirety HERE.

If you’re still on the fence about Priest, check out the trailer below:

[poll id=”153″]

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick — and let us know what you thought of the film below.

Priest is currently playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

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  1. Sounds like I will be skipping this one .
    Thanks Ben.

  2. :O !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I will Redbox it in 3 months because I like Paul Bettany but his agent really needs to get him some better work!

  4. The lack of an R rating kills it for me anyway, but thanks Ben, great review as always :)

  5. Yeah saw it last night, and I agree 100%. I will say this its better then Hex but not by much. I’ll take Maggie Q over Fox any day of the week and twice every other day for the helluv it

  6. This was no surprise.

  7. This movie sucked? NO WAY! Paul is a talented actor. He stars in movies that should be good or atleast cool but they always fall on there face like legion, tourist. He had a strong supporting roll in the young Victorian. This is why good actors only work with proven directors because if you don’t you might become a Paul bettany.

  8. I’m not trying to patronize when I say this, but I’m really impressed- the quality of writing around Screen Rant just keeps improving regularly. I’m loving it. =D

  9. 1 star is stupid…and a cliche…this movie deserves 3 stars ! You give Twilight: eclipse 3 stars, but priest 1 star…wtf !

    • Maybe because Twilight: Eclipse actually seems to have had some EFFORT put into it. Even if its source material is tripe, the film itself tries very hard to be a decent movie. We have David Slade to thank for this.

    • Namik,

      Did you even bother to actually read the review?


    • did you see the movie, or are you just commenting, cause it was nt a 3 start movie

  10. Hmm, I was hoping that this would be decent. I liked the promos and the premise, but will probably pass on this since there is so much to see in the theaters this summer. I will probably get it through Netflix, though.

  11. I like Paul Bettany but I have to say
    I never envisioned him playing an “action” lead.
    I have a feeling this may end his foray into the genre
    which should benefit viewers as well as his future career.

    Great honest review, Ben. Since at least one star
    is mandatory perhaps it did not even earn that.

  12. I was honestly hoping this movie would be at least somewhat decent, its kind of disappointing actually, i like Bettany in some roles and I was hoping this would be one of them. I’ll probably still see it, but its a little disheartening.

  13. The team that brought you Legion: First indication.

    Adapted from a Korean comic: Second indication.

    This film had crap written all over it the second it went into pre-production.

    • Actually sully if you watch it , the movie it self doesnt suck , it s the fact that it is sooo incredibly underdeveloped that makes it bad, the movie is just full of empty moments that never get explored the stuff thats there isnt bad its just very incomplete its weird to explain, If you saw Hex, it wasnt that it was underdeveloped moments it was just plain bad all of it, this isnt like that you get more upset that you have alot of cool idea that just go no where

  14. Paul Bets is too good of an actor to be making sh*t sammiches

    His Dr. McCoy in Master and Commander was wonderful. Wish they would make a sequel to that instead of more cheap direct to Netflix poo

    • Dr. McCoy is from Star Trek. Paul’s character in Master and Commander was Dr. Stephen Maturin. And I agree, I wish they’d make a sequel. Russell Crowe has already shown interest in making one.

  15. hate how the star rating gone to the bottom, i usually look at it to get a good idea of how the reviewer feels about the movie (on the whole) and having to scroll down to the bottom, then back to the top to read the review is kinda annoying.

    the minute i heard they screwed up the story was when i lost interest in everything about this alleged mess. why does hollywood find it necessary to ruin a perfectly good manga series by americanising it, they would have been better off just copying the story (not word for word but close to it) and ditched the 3d bs. not gonna even bother watching this over the net.

    • jwalka,

      The point is to get people to actually READ the reviews. Otherwise there’s a lot of looking at the star rating, jumping down to the comments, and stupid insults at the reviewer.


      • that’s when the language filter comes in handy 😉 hehehe but yeah i know what you mean, i just prefer the old system, b/c i dont have to waste my time reading the review if i know its a poor movie.

  16. i’ll rent it, but won’t waste my time to see it in a movie theatre plus the 9 bucks

    but this film is coming from the director of legion. did you really expect better?

    hollywood needs to stop inventing things to fit their mold.

  17. I’ll get this on Netflix just to say I’ve seen it. I’ve stopped going to 3D movies cause it doesn’t make any sort of difference to the experience. The only movie I feel that benefited from 3D has been Avatar and it was shot with some ridiculously expensive 3D cameras. Just stop with the 3D already.

  18. the review needs corrected. the movie is set 100 or so years after the comic.

    • @ Mike –

      Unless you’re working with updated info, the last we had heard Priest takes place in a future world, from an alternate historical timeline, that isn’t connected to the comic.

      Given the amount of liberties taken in the final film, it’s hard to make a case for it being connected. Either way, I never explicitly said it wasn’t connected in the review – just that a lot of liberties were taken.

      That said, if you want to shoot-off a link to something official, I’ll be happy to take a look.

  19. It was a terrible film, but the vampires (expect the black hat) were pretty neat.

  20. Thank goodness I saw this for free. I would give it another 1 star (2/5) because I thought Betany and Urban did a good job. I just don’t understand how a good actor like Paul Betany can’t seem to get a good starring job when lesser actors like Keanu Reeves get all kinds of blockbusters. I think Paul needs a better agent. No way Vic is going to have a spoilers discussion on this, so I will put a *****SPOILERS WARNING***** here.

    Why did they keep the vampires in that reservation? Why not just kill them all? I kept asking myself that question all through the film. I felt the little animated short in the beginning was a better story than the movie. And was there some type of nuclear war that also happened, since people had to test for radiation in the soil and water? Ad what was up with the main city polluting the sky? Didn’t it occur to any of them that with the sun being blocked out vampires could roam free? Blade doesn’t have to worry about his status as the best vampire killer for sure.

  21. Watching the animated prologue I have to agree Kahless.

    This had good potential even if it did change the original story up. It’s sad when stories with such potential are sent to a proverbial Slaughter House Production Team. I’m sure the fine actors were the draw to get it made. It’s just sad that it didn’t get better treatment but, at least I’m not compelled to take this in. I’m still hoping “Dark Shadows” to be the supernatural payoff for avoiding these second rate efforts…


    No original concepts, cliche script-writing, re-done character’s appearances from other movies see also: (Judge Dread motorcycles, mega-cities and barren earth wastelands, Paul Bettany in Da Vinci Code, Underworld’s werewolf-stopping throwing stars/shurikens). Pathetic 3-D effects when watched in 3-D, completely lame plot twists. I will(SPOILER ALERT) save you eight bucks on Priest 2 “Testament” … the church is secretly behind the vampire problem. There you go, hopefully the suckers who were talked into financing this movie stop now before they begin filming part 3 “The Revelation” which is *obviously in the works.

    *Hollywood has begun seeing movie concepts in terms of lifetime sequels which will fail as it always has. Come on guys, a comic book costs a dollar and a half and is just as cool.

  23. I don’t know about the rest of you but I love this movie. I also hope that it will be realese on DVD unrated format.

    • I want to go and watch and judge for myself and see…

  24. “Priest” is so bad that if I were holding a brick I would have thrown it through the movie screen as hard as I could after it finally ended. It is so stupid that to call it “Down syndrome-calibur” retarded would be an insult to people with down syndrome, since they could have come up with a better story. The only thing scary about this movie is the notion that someone, somewhere, actually approved the making of it (oh well, I guess sons and daughters of Hollywood executives need summer jobs, and hence, scripts for films like “Priest” actually get approved and turned in to a film). I think the makers of this awful mess are due to go to confession.

  25. This was one of the best ‘bad’ movies I’ve seen this year. All that was missing was Nicholas Cage!

  26. Just one Star ?….I have to find out and see how this movie is

  27. the movie wasn’t bad, predictable but not bad. it is just a decent action flick

  28. This was worth more than 1 star – Thor was worse!

  29. It’s an okay movie. The main problem is the very short running rime of just over an hour, if you don’t count the end credits. It feels like the third act is missing. The story is just about to pick up speed and then BAM, it’s over.