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Priest (2011 film)

An action film about a vampire hunter based on a Korean comic book.

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Forgive Me, Father, For I Have Slain...

  • May 14, 2011
Vampires and slayers. Humans vs. vampires. Who would win? Well, director Scott Stewart who directed last year’s “Legion” tries to answer this question when he directs this film inspired by the Korean comic book written by Min-Woo Hyung with the same name (Korean comics are called “Manhwa“). I am at a slight disadvantage since I didn’t exactly follow the source material that far so I cannot really say how the script by Cory Goodman really does compare with the general premise of the Korean manhwa (in the long run), but I can make obvious observations. The direction by Stewart does carry a western overtone mixed in with post-apocalyptic themes (with a different timeline) and the vampires do have quite a few significant changes.

When a war between vampires and humans broke out many centuries ago in this alternate world, it brought this planet near the brink of destruction. Humans become forced to dwell behind huge walls erected by the church that keep them isolated from the barren wasteland and the vampires have all been hunted to near extinction by “Priests”. After the war, the priests retreated to uneventful lives that takes them to near-obscurity. However, when a young woman (Lily Collins) is taken by a mysterious new breed of vampire led by Black Hat (Keith Urban), a veteran warrior-priest (Paul Bettany, Legion) comes out of retirement to face this new enemy. He is joined by the “wasteland lawman” (Cam Gigandet) and a priestess (sexy Maggie Q) to do whatever it takes to stop this evil even if the church denies the fact that vampires still exist….

                       Paul Bettany as Priest in "Priest."

                       Lilly Collins and Paul Bettany in "Priest."

                       Paul Bettany and Josh Winget in "Priest."

Being based on the Korean comic, the writing obviously made some changes to the original premise most specifically its timeline of events. Stewart made the vampires cave-dwellers (no eyes), behave like drones with a vampire queen, people bitten by vampires become familiars instead, and vampires are divided into groups of guardians, soldiers and hive drones. The priests themselves are portrayed like Jedi Knights (as to their obscurity and reputation) and the characterization is almost none-existent. I am really not certain how this U.S. film managed to dispose of the intricacies/elements of the source material by making the concept almost totally different. There is no Belial or Cairo, the western timeline has been changed to something more futuristic, no fallen angels and the character names have been mostly altered. I suppose ‘loosely based’ is enough to convince the producers for the film to carry the name of the manhwa; but then perhaps this is more of a sequel to the comic (since the animated sequence does give this impression)? But enough, let’s talk about the film ok?

                  Maggie Q in "Priest."

                 Paul Bettany as Priest in "Priest."

This world created by Stewart and Goodman may have taken inspiration from “Land of the Dead” (walled city), “Vampire Hunter D”, and takes some touches from a spaghetti western. It does make some interesting plot elements such as how the society of humans and vampires work. I did like the way the city has automated confessional booths that suggests the church’s detachment from the human crowd. There are also themes how soldiers and warriors have issues ‘fitting in’ in a peaceful society and how a church can use man’s need to believe in something as a tool for them to be motivated to obey . People who defy the church are left to live outside the walls and they adapt a simpler lifestyle amid the wasteland and yet, familiars are left to themselves, as long as they commit no crime.

The vampire society in this world are not the usual ones we’ve seen in most movies. The creatures here are more monster-like with the lack of eyes; some are bigger while others are more bat-like. Being cave-dwellers, their skin is incredibly pale and matches the look of those cave-dwelling albino-hairless rodents we’ve seen on TV. Hints how their ‘hive’ carry a network are touched upon, but it never truly becomes developed. Stewart sticks to rather simple elements to tell his story, I didn’t see him taking risks. We catch glimpses of this alternate world; cities have more advance features and the wasteland is well…barren. The film is gloomy and while some set designs had potential, I found that I barely even cared about them. There is nothing intricate about the plot and Stewart allows style and action to be the film’s main draw and the script makes Priest‘s detective skills to become the driving element of the story.

                      Paul Bettany as Priest and Cam Gigandet as Hicks in "Priest."

                      Lily Collins as Lucy Pace in "Priest."

                     Cam Gigandet as Hicks in "Priest."

The film is filled with wild slo-mo and western inspired stare-downs to try and emulate the Korean comic. The action can be cool at times, albeit nothing really made any scene stand out. Filled with knife fights, shootouts and martial arts action, the direction sticks to the routine of action flicks. There is some blood and gore, and curiously most of the blood were almost inky black. To come up with an effective action sequence or climactic encounter, a viewer has to be emotionally invested with the characters; and "Priest" never does this. I guess if the film had some positive notes, it would have to be the screen presence of Maggie Q, as her fight scene while drenched in overdone style and formula was pretty cool. The vehicles and weapons in “Priest” are simple but I did like the motorcycle (goes 200 mph) and those razor-sharp throwing crosses were nifty; too bad they didn’t get much use.

The performances are pretty morose and such was Stewart‘s intention with his caricaturized cast. Bettany is stuck in-between dialogue and icy stares to try to make his character appear cold and calculating while he sports a cross-tattoo on his face. Bettany does make for an “Ok” Catholic warrior and his grunts and expressions drive the testosterone of the film. Black Hat doubtlessly channels “Vampire Hunter D”; but Urban is reduced to a one-dimensional villain who relies on theatrics and fang display. Gigandet (Never Back Down) is even worst as the wasteland lawman; and the dialogue does not do him any favors. Maggie Q (Naked Weapon, Nikita) resorts to her martial arts skills to grab attention and not for her sex appeal (although it still screamed attention).

                        Maggie Q in "Priest."

                        Maggie Q in "Priest."

Not really sure how Stewart can reduce such an intricate comic book into something that is totally different. The ingenuity of the source material was lost and this adaptation doesn’t even scratch its surface. “Priest” may say that it was "inspired" but an adaptation, it sure isn’t. The film takes on such a serious tone and mood, that it is nigh impossible to even take it as something else.(I did like the animated flashback to fill in the details of the story though) “Priest” is hollow and while it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve seen, but there just wasn't much that happens in it; I do feel that there is a sequel planned but we shall see. There is some coolness about it, it just didn’t know how to capitalize on them. At its best, it was a simple ‘kidnap and rescue’ story with predictable twists, wild slow-motion sequences and cool attitude. Which is too bad, given its potentials.

RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Note: I saw this in 3D (paid the extra charge) and I sure wish I didn't; the 3D didn't do anything to enhance its experience. If you do decide to see this film, see it in standard 2D.

 Poster art for "Priest." Poster art for "Priest."

Poster art for "Priest." Poster art for "Priest."


A Catholic Warrior Priest Battles Vampires In A Strange Land.... A Catholic Warrior Priest Battles Vampires In A Strange Land....

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April 02, 2012
A gem of a film is for vampire enthusiasts everywhere.
November 07, 2011
Great review, as usual you have managed to bring things to my attention about the movie that i don't think i noticed while watching it. I did like the automated confessionals as well as the fact that the church is like some crazy brainwashing dictators! I liked this one a little more than you did but im sure thats 100% due to the fact that i didnt read the comic.
November 07, 2011
I know those automated confessionals were pretty nice. But you know the Korean comic was totally different from the U.S. movie.
November 08, 2011
One day in the very distant future i'm going to read comics, because it would appear i am missing out on a lot of stuff!
November 08, 2011
when you do decide to read them, drop me a line....I'll be more than happy to recommend some stuff to you.
November 08, 2011
I have actually read one series but most comic fans laugh at me when i mention it...its called johnny the homicidal maniac u heard of it??
May 17, 2011
You've piqued my interest in this movie.
May 18, 2011
thanks for the read and the comment...remember I couldn't give it a recommendation but it may be worth a rental to pass off 2 hours LOL! If you ask me, I'd rather watch Evil Dead or My Name is Bruce than this one ;)
May 18, 2011
Actually, I would rather see Priest in a theater than something artistic and loaded with hidden meaning and allegory. The artistic, good movies are the ones you save for the rentals. If I'm spending ten bucks on a movie ticket these days, the movie damn well better be entertaining. Good is optional in a theater, but it has to entertain. If it isn't, I don't care how good it is, I didn't get my money's worth. You wrote about this in a way which makes it look like Priest would be good by my theatergoing standards, is what I'm saying.
May 18, 2011
Oh, cool. That is a good way to look at it. I remember someone telling me that he goes to the theaters to be diverted, and as you said....entertained. I like the way you put that into words!
May 17, 2011
The reviews I've seen have been more brutal in their assessment of the film than the character has been in his dispatching of the undead... which means I'll probably wait until it's on DVD. LOL! By the way, I thought you were posting this in one of my communities. Wasn't that why you told me to make sure I added the topic to them?
May 17, 2011
Yeah, a rental would suffice for this. I really wanted to like this, but it was just hollow and I found nothing that left me an impression. @ liked it and he wrote a great review too. as to the answer of your inquiry, you do need to check on my profile more often LOL!..there is a new review for "Beyond the Printed Page" and possibly another for your other community in two days. I asked you to add the topic since it was here....and it can be in your two other COL's...
May 14, 2011
I actually liked this one a bit more than you, of course that could be the Sam Raimi fan in me talking.
May 14, 2011
Review, Alex, Review! We need different viewpoints of film, so people can make their own decision. I didn't hate this which is why I rounded up the 2.5 to 3; it was 'ok' but there were so many missed opportunities and the characterization and plot development were too light. I am a Raimi fan too!

The source material was just much more; maybe this was meant like a sequel to the manhwa, but still...I felt it was too routine. Thanks for the read, Alex! Please review it so our community can have a diverse collection of opinions.
May 14, 2011
Excellent review, When I saw the trailer for this film it screamed "I look great but I'm actually quite awful". But I'm glad the film was not a complete waste does it at least work as a kind of "blow two and a half hours" kind of picture or is it a complete waste?
May 14, 2011
I would say see it in non-3D and matinee if you really want to, but rental is more advisable. It can be an acceptable 80 minute diversion since it does have some cool scenes. I may have some baggage since I liked the source material quite a bit, I know some folks liked it a bit, guess as with Thor I was a little compromised by my knowledge of the source material.
May 14, 2011
I liked "THOR" despite its flaws in its script and its characterization, it was a very enjoyable thrill ride to blow nearly two hours but sadly nothing else. As for "Priest" I have never even heard of is source material. Thanks for the heads up.
May 14, 2011
The Korean graphic novel was set in a western backdrop with more characters and definitely a lot more complex. I guess since I kind of read volume one I was a little burdened with my enjoyment of this film; hard when you know the material you know. Volume 3 I heard was based on the Blood video game....take a look at it.
More Priest (2011 film) reviews
review by . September 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
* out of ****     Scott Stewart began his film directing career with 2010's "Legion"; which would easily make it on the "worst films of all time" list, if it were compiled by yours truly. Such a bad movie it was; beginning with promise, and then venturing into stupidity so irredeemable that even a detour into camp territory couldn't save it. Oh well; I had a pretty good laugh at the intended "scares" and the "ideas". Oh, let's not forget the acting; that was funny too. Moving …
review by . May 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Priest, based on the graphic novel by Min-woo Hyung, is a fun and stylish 3D adventure, one that artfully blends horror, science fiction, action, and just a little bit of western. It takes place in an alternate world, where humans and blind, beast-like vampires have been at war; to eradicate the menace – as explained in a very effective opening animated sequence – the Church created a society of assassin-like priests, whose weapons of …
review by . September 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I honestly couldn't pass up using a title referencing this films over hype and failure to deliver. Quite honestly the entire time I was watching this all I could think was " This movie is missing something". So I'm not so good with the synopsis sum up, I actually hate writing it but this one is too easy to really work a brain cell on. The film is an adaption of the Korean comic which America sadly is getting extremely obsessed with a lot of asian film, anime, comics and so on especially …
review by . May 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - Action/Horror/Sci-Fi - 6th May 2011 The only interesting thing with vampire films these days is trying to work out what kind of vampire your going to get and what rules have been thought up to govern them in the world. The vampires of Priest are actual gruesome monsters with sharp claws and fangs which makes a change from the usual humans with slightly bigger incisors. That being said, they do exist as the human-turned-vampire slaves to their true vampire masters. Based on Hyung Min-Woo …
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About this movie


Priest, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, is set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess who possesses otherworldly fighting skills. Written by Screen Gems  
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Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller, Western
Release Date: May 13, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Cory Goodman
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: Screen Gems, Sony Pictures
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