Priest: I laughed, which probably wasn’t what they wanted

Oh, Priest. You had scary vampires. You had a woman of color, Maggie Q (Polish-Irish-Vietnamese), kicking ass. You had Karl Urban who was awesome in Red.

Why, oh why, did you have to be so terrible?

I really tried to work with you. I could get behind Paul Bettany as the main character, a vampire-slaying church soldier in the post-apocalypse. Your casting diversity was Maggie Q as another priest-warrior plus lots of background characters, but that’s further than many films get. Q’s character is great, she’s an equal partner in the ass-kicking and fighting vampires wouldn’t be the same without her. Plus, you had enough budget that the special effects didn’t grate on the eyes.

But what the hell was with the, um, “plot”? Was it screenwriter Cory Goodman? Or did he write a fantastic script that was butchered in the editing process? Did cutting it down to 87 minutes require removing all the parts that would make any of the following make sense:

  • After the vampire war, Priests were removed from military service. The Church did not want them spreading unease among the people, so instead of serving the Church in the dark recesses of the scriptorium or something, they were sent out to live and work amongst the general populace. And to make sure they were not a continuing threat, they were allowed to keep their badass motorcycles.
  • An experienced vampire tracker would look at two or three yards worth of tracks, determine the direction they’re heading, and then drive in that direction at approximately TWO HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR because obviously, vampires would never change direction.
  • Maggie Q’s character has an important assignment – blow up the train tracks! The best way to do this? Set a bunch of charges and then wait for some bad guys to show up and wreck everything!

And the… character development, I guess one could call it? Horrible. Clumsy. In the second half of the film, Maggie Q and Paul Bettany have one of the more heartbreaking, quiet, unrequited (?) love scenes I’ve witnessed in a movie. If only it hadn’t been preceded by a scene in the first half of the film where Q’s character appears and essentially throws up a bunch of personal confession that honestly would have been better as voiceover. (I never thought I would say something like that, but voiceover would actually have been BETTER.) These are extremely reserved people!

Unlike the town sheriff who could have added a Beavis-like “huh huh” after suddenly asking “So, can Priests have relations?” of someone he has known for approximately 6 seconds. Cam Gigandet, you need better people. You’re supposed to be the sidekick who proves himself, or something? Instead you’re just incompetent. And desperately lacking in both judgment and social skills.

This post could probably be infinitely long, because I have so much to lament about this movie. But I will limit myself to two more topics: the Damsel in Distress and the Ninja.

The Damsel in Distress is the young, skinny, pretty white girl whose kidnapping sparks all the action here. Thank goodness that young women living in frontier wastelands that are troubled by bandits grow up feisty, tough, and with formidable self-defense skills. Oh, wait…

The Ninja is played by Arnold Chon, and like Gigandet, he needs to fire his people immediately. Or, we need to fire most of Hollywood because they can’t stop portraying Asian martial artists as complete stereotypes. What is with the 20 second long fucking around with your ninjonics and your weapon thing and your kung-fu movie vocalizations? Did they keep recruiting Priests after the war, because honestly, I can’t see you living through the first five minutes of a confrontation with a vampire. Oh, wait…

Here’s what I have to say in Priest’s defense: It looks cool. And I laughed. A lot. Of course, that’s probably not the reaction they were hoping for.

I should probably give this 1 star for Typical because of the Ninja, and the redshirt problem with some of the Priests who are not played by Paul Bettany. But because of Maqqie Q, and the significant effort they made to cast Priests and Church leaders with some diversity, it feels more like “So Close.” Two stars.

p.s. To town sheriff, who is so pissed off that the Priest is going to kill the Damsel if she’s infected: What’s your plan? PENICILLIN?

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

9 thoughts on “Priest: I laughed, which probably wasn’t what they wanted

  1. Grace

    Penicillin! I just laughed out loud in my cube.

    I’ll be skipping this one. Which I would have anyway, because Paul Bettany makes my teeth hurt.

  2. Skye

    @Tea Drinker, I’m certainly not against anyone seeing it. I was just awestruck by how much they squandered a lot of raw material for a good film. It’s painful that it was so bad, because I actually would have liked to see more of Bettany and Q’s characters if they could get some decent dialogue – but I can’t imagine they’ll make a sequel.

  3. Maureen

    Hey Skye, it was lovely meeting you at the LiveMom thingy on Saturday. I am digging this blog,yo. Also, I am totally seeing this movie because I will watch anything with Paul Bettany in it. I even watched Wimbledon, a stupid tennis movie with Kirsten Dunst being unconvincing. That is my postion on Paul Bettany.

  4. Skye

    @Maureen, hi! Despite the issues with this film, I am now 100% in the Paul Bettany camp myself. I thought he did the best at trying to rise above what he was given for a script here.

  5. Gillian

    What really got to me was that Maggie Q’s character has no name and has heels on her boots.

    Also everything the priests use is made out of or has crosses on it, they even have crosses tattooed on the faces. Which makes no sense because the vampires have no eyes!

  6. Skye

    @Gillian, I’m not sure Paul Bettany’s character had a name either? Maybe I missed it. I did see the boots and gave them partial credit for them being kind of blocky heels instead of spikes.

    Your point about the eyes is genius! Was the Church just trying to send a message to the human population? ‘Cause the vamps sure wouldn’t have cared.

  7. Gillian

    I didn’t notice but you’re right about Paul Bettany’s character not having a name. IMDB lists his character as Priest and Maggie Q’s is listed as Priestess. I got a little hung up on her character not having a name that I missed his not having one either cause I could totally see them not giving her a name while everyone else got one.

    Yeah the blocky heels are a slightly better choice but they still made me groan a little in the theater.

  8. Skye

    I saw that on IMDB, and I was rather annoyed, because nowhere in the film do I recall her being termed “Priestess.” They’re all called Priests.

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