Paul Bettany and Scott Charles Stewart reunite after the angels with automatic weapons flick, Legion, this time crafting a film that features post-apocalyptic wild west vampire hunters.

Sounds good, right? Well, kinda. Priest tells the tale of the titular dude who’s one of a group of elite fighters that have been forced into retirement after ridding the Earth of the vampire menace. The Church has carved itself a nice little niche in the Bladerunner-esque city conclaves, ruling over a populace forever grateful for their protection, no matter how iron fisted that may be.Priest When an outlying settlement is struck by a group of supposedly extinct vampires, Bettany’s growly-voiced, tattoo-faced character is lured out of retirement to get his action thang on.

The vampires on show here look like the Marvel character Venom crossed with the dogburster from Alien³; they’re lithe, with oversized teeth and a distinct lack of eyes. They don’t look particularly realistic, but neither does the rest of the film. In fact, Priest is one of those flicks where everything looks fake, which means that the dodgy CGI is less distracting than it should be. It looked like most of the film was shot in front of a greenscreen.

The script is awful. Truly awful. Some succeed at delivering the inane dialogue (Christopher Plummer, in particular), but others (Bettany, Cam Gigandet and Karl Urban) struggle. In fact, Bettany is surprisingly bad here. I’ve always loved his performances, from A Knight’s Tale to Wimbledon to Creation, but his attempts at a gravel voiced deadpan action hero fall flat here. To be honest, most of the time I was distracted by the cruciform tattoo on his forehead, which inadvertently serves to exaggerate his every expression in an unintentionally comedic fashion.

All that being said, if you manage to ignore the dreadful dialogue and predictable story, the action’s decent enough, in a cheapo greenscreen Matrix-y kind of way. We get treated to heaps of slow motion and improbable ballistics, which is entertaining. The entire film’s got a blue/grey sheen, to the extent that it’s almost monochromatic, which becomes tiresome after a while.

Aside from a nifty opening animation, the 3D effects are not worth the extra dosh. I had to don the plastic glasses for this one because I couldn’t find any 2D sessions, but if you get to choose, I’d aim for the no-frills version, if only because a fair portion of the film is quite dark (though the dimness isn’t so bad as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides reportedly was.)

Paul Bettany doesn’t impress and neither does the writing, but Priest manages to decently fill 87 minutes. Have a look on DVD if you want to watch something mindless with cartoonish action.

Rating: 2.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 31st August 2011
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

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