Monday, 6 June 2011

Film Review: Priest

Vampires. The most popular, cliched, and overused supernatural villain in Hollywood's armoury. It is unlikely that these nasties will ever be eradicated from our zeitgeist, and so the onus is to constantly reinvent them in that they seem 'new' each outing. Based on a Korean comic of the same name, Hyung Min-woo's creation is both a homage to the old and an attempt to infuse some life into the undead. However, while the comic's Western aesthetic and lore may appear unique to its Asian audience, it doesn't quite breathe originality into the traditions and customs surrounding these creatures in Western storytelling.

In the future perpetual conflict with the vampires has put humanity on the brink of extinction. Retreating into walled cities under protection of the oppressive Church, humanity cowers to superstition as the excommunicated roam a futuristic representation of the Wild West beyond the cities' boundaries. When a priest (Bettany), humanity's ultimate weapon used to defeat the creatures, learns that his niece (Collins) has been abducted by a resurgent army of vampires, he sets out against the Church's wishes to retrieve her.

So what sets Priest aside from other vamp movies? Well, nothing, really. It borrows from every other vampire movie you care to think of. The souped up vampire-hunter carrying an array of exotic pointy things from Blade; the dark, Blade Runner-esque near-future cities seen in modern day vamp flicks, most recently Daybreakers; and the super quick, kangaroo athleticism of I Am Legend's bats on steroids all bare uncanny familiarity here. Priest doesn't actually take elements that worked in similar films, but instead stuffs itself full of the cheesiest devices the genre has ever spouted forth.

What is admittedly an intriguing concept is executed in murky and nonsensical fashion. It's generic to the point where attempts at character development feel unnatural and forced. Indeed, there doesn't appear to be any depth to the cast, and attempts to pad them out with a backstory seem to have been considered only in passing. Each scene feels oddly disjointed from the last, attempting to create a pacey fluidity to proceedings. But in order to do this it omits reference to the logical progression of events in what ends up looking like a child's make-believe game. It's tantamount to saying 'let's go here, now let's go here' without ever really explaining why.

While Priest is short at around 87mins and moves reasonably succinctly, it fails to entertain in any great degree. Action sequences are blase, and the virtual omission of grounding story devices make it a wholly transient experience. You'll almost feel as if you just blinked.