Priest (Unrated) (Blu-ray)

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Rating: PG-13 and Unrated

Starring:
Paul Bettany as Priest
Karl Urban as Black Hat
Cam Gigandet as Hicks
Maggie Q as Priestess
Lily Collins as Lucy Pace
Brad Dourif as Salesman
Stephen Moyer as Owen Pace
Christopher Plummer as Monsignor Orelas
Alan Dale as Monsignor Chamberlain
Madchen Amick as Shannon Pace
Jacob Hopkins as Boy
Dave Florek as Crocker
Joel Polinsky as Dr. Tomlin
Josh Wingate as Familiar
Jon Braver as Familiar

Directed by Scott Stewart

Special Features:
PS3 Theme
Twisted Metal – Uncut Trailer
movieIQ
Bullets and Crucifixes: Picture-in-Picture Experience
Commentary with Director Scott Stewart, Writer Cory Goodman, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q
Deleted and Extended Scenes
The Bloody Frontier: Creating the World of Priest
Tools of the Trade: The Weapons and Vehicles of Priest

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 87 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“In a post-apocalyptic world, a savage war between man and vampire raged for centuries. A warrior priest (Paul Bettany) receives word of fresh attacks but now it’s personal, his niece has been kidnapped by a new hive of merciless vampires. To save her, he must break his vow of peace and hunt down the hive before it’s too late. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel and packed with bloodthirsty action, this full throttle crusade takes you on the hunt for a deadly new breed of killer.”

“Priest” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and brief strong language.

Mini-Review:
Like you, I saw “Priest” appear in theaters and just as quickly disappear. I had never heard of the comic it was based on and I saw the bad reviews. And I don’t believe they ever screened it for critics here in Houston. So combine all of those considerations together and you can see why I wasn’t expecting much from the film. But as I watched it on Blu-ray, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It is by no means a classic, but it’s solid entertainment and not nearly as bad as you might otherwise expect.

One of the most notable things about “Priest” is the fact that it blends a lot of genres into one film. One of the biggest influences is the Western. You have remote outposts in the desert, mysterious strangers wearing cowboy hats, showdowns, train chases, etc. You could justifiably file this in the Western section of a video listing. Yet it also has elements from sci-fi. You have massive cities straight out of “Blade Runner,” oppressive church-based governments out of “1984,” and more. But if that wasn’t enough, you also have post-apocalyptic influences from “Mad Max” and Catholic influences from “The Exorcist.” It’s a strange blending of genres, but for the most part it works.

But the final genre that “Priest” attempts to include is the vampire genre. I have to respect them for trying something different. These vampires are not sparkly, trendy, or elegant. No, these vampires are simply monsters. However, they are so far removed from vampire lore that there’s practically no reason to call them vampires anymore. Sure, they drink blood and are burned by sunlight, but they live in hives, they swarm like ants, they have a queen, they have no eyes, etc etc etc. They have more in common with the monsters from “Aliens” than anything else. You probably should just call them monsters once you’ve modified the legend this much.

“Priest” is a fantastic looking film. I don’t know what the budget of it was, but every dollar is up on the screen. The cities are cool, the monsters are impressive, and the Western towns and the train are well-realized. Almost every frame of this movie looks like a beautiful photograph. And considering director Scott Stewart’s visual effects background, I’m not surprised. The fight scenes are also well done. There are some great priest vs. monster scenes and the grand finale on the train with the motorcycles zipping around looks like it could have come straight out of a “Road Warrior” movie. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or action, you’ll get a kick out of “Priest.”

On the acting front, I have to say that there’s not a whole lot of acting. Paul Bettany is more focused on action than dialogue as Priest. Most of his role calls for him to look cool, which he does. Same for Karl Urban as Black Hat and Maggie Q as Priestess. But as long as you’re there for the visual spectacle and not the performances, you’ll enjoy it just fine. I did find Cam Gigandet a bit annoying as Hicks. Hicks goes out of his way to recruit Priest to help save Lucy, yet as soon as he begins helping, Hicks threatens him in every other scene. It’s biting the hand that feeds you and it gets annoying. And if you’re a fan of Brad Dourif or Christopher Plummer, you’ll be disappointed to hear they’re not used very much in the movie.

One final comment – “Priest” comes across as something written by someone that had some bad experiences in Catholic school as a child. While on the surface the whole religious connection may seem to give the story depth, it really doesn’t. It mainly comes across as a little swipe at the Catholic church (whether deserved or not).

Gripes aside, “Priest” is one of those overlooked gems that you probably missed in theaters. If you like sci-fi or action movies, then this will be a Blu-ray you want to check out.

The Blu-ray is a tad light on bonus features. You do get unrated and theatrical versions of the movie. There’s also a commentary and deleted scenes. Then there are two featurettes – a general ‘making of’ video and another dedicated to the weapons and vehicles. Finally, there’s a picture-in-picture feature that plays interviews and behind the scenes footage as the movie plays. I’m not a big fan of these because I prefer to watch my bonus features separate from the film. But I had an added problem where the audio from the featurettes couldn’t be heard. I could only hear the movie audio. I don’t know if it was a problem with my home theater setup or what, but it didn’t make me any more of a fan of the “Picture-in-Picture Experience.”

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