I’m starting a new, semi-regular feature on the blog, where I pick a movie that I had added to my by-mail Queue months or years ago, then watch, recap and review it. First up is Priest, which I really wanted to see, but missed in theaters. SPOILERS AHEAD.
There were a few barriers to entry on this one for me. First, I couldn’t really see Paul Bettany as a badass action star. I like his work, but he played Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, and also had roles in Master and Commander and A Beautiful Mind. He even played Charles Darwin. Not a strong track record of badassery. He’s just so British.
Second, I like my vampires humany and Goth, like Interview With the Vampire. The vampires in Priest are blind, slimy things completely lacking in suaveness.
But as I am, over all, a fan of vampire-killin’, I jumped into Priest enthusiastically.
The movie begins with an animated exposition sequence, explaining that humans and vampires have fought for centuries. The Church seems to be pretty much in charge of all humans in this alternate world, and they use specially trained warriors called Priests to fight the vampire scourge. After the humans “won” the last vampire war, the remaining vampires were sent to reservations, and the majority of humans now live in giant walled cities. The Priests take vows not to fight again.
Everybody got that? Good.
The actual live action part of the movie also starts off with a little exposition. We see Paul Bettany and a group of Priests, including Karl Urban (New Bones!) attacking a vampire “hive” during the last vampire war. New Bones gets pulled into the hive and is presumably killed. OR IS HE?!?
Cut to modern times. Bettany is approached by a Sheriff from the wasteland outside the city. The Sheriff tells him that Bettany’s brother and family were attacked by vampires, and they kidnapped his niece (the Sheriff’s lady friend). THIS DOES NOT SIT WELL WITH CHAUCER.
He asks the Clergy to absolve him of his vow because vampires are on the loose again, and he needs to save his niece. They don’t believe him, basically telling him to cram it. Of course, he leaves anyway, taking out a few foolish guards who try to stop him.
This is when we get our first two awesome surprises of the movie. Awesome Surprise 1: All Priests come standard issue with a super-sweet jet turbine motorcycle.
Awesome Surprise Number 2: Outside the walled cities, the setting of Priest is pretty much that of Fallout 3 — a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is somehow very much like the Old West.
Just wait until you get to Awesome Surprise 3. Surprise 3 is the best.
So Bettany and the Sheriff do some investigating, check out the town near where Bettany’s family was attacked, and talk to Bettany’s brother just before he fully dies. They are pointed in the direction of the nearby vampire reservation, where after Bettany rains death down upon some vampires, he finds out most of the reservation has left for the old hive.
Meanwhile, the Clergy has assembled a group of priests to hunt down Bettany. But of course, that means that had to forgo their vows, too. So where does that leave us? WHO POLICES THE POLICE?!?
Back at the hive, Bettany and the Sheriff are attacked by something called a hive guardian, which is never really explained, but basically looks like a giant vampire-dog hybrid. Luckily, one of the priests assigned to stop Bettany, a Lady Priest, is there to help them kill it. She’s not down with stopping Bettany — she’s there to help him. They find signs the vampires have bred a huge army in the hive and plan to attack the nearby town of Jericho.
Cut to Jericho, where we get Awesome Surprise 3: VAMPIRE TRAIN! New Bones is alive, is a vampire-human hybrid (I guess that’s a new thing), and has loaded up all the vampires on a train to travel across the country like a pack of blood-drinking hobos. They destroy Jericho, and kill the remainder of the Priests who were there looking for Bettany.
Bettany & Friends show up after all the destruction, but Bettany knows he can’t let the Vampire Train make it to the walled city. So he and his posse plan an attack involving motorcycles and explosives. Just before the attack, we find out Awesome Surprise Number 4: that’s not his niece; it’s his daughter! Bettany came to the priesthood late in life, and had already fathered a kid.
That means the vampire ass-kicking will be even harsher than we were led to believe. This time it’s personal. Or, even more personal. I don’t know. Asses will be kicked.
And they are. Bettany and the Sheriff attack the train while Lady Priest plants explosives on the track up ahead. Bettany mainly gets beaten down by New Bones, while New Bones relates to him how he became a weirdo hybrid by being bitten by the Vampire Queen. During this time, the Sheriff fights through vampires and disgusting vampire sleeping pod things to find his girlfriend.
The detonation device doesn’t work, but Lady Priest has her head on a swivel, so she puts her motorcycle into autopilot (yeah, that’s a thing in this movie), and jumps off. When the bike hits, everything goes boom, New Bones is engulfed in flames, and Bettany, his daughter, and the Sheriff jump to safety.
The end of the movie is a fantastically overt lead-in to a sequel, with Bettany explaining that the Vampire Queen wasn’t on the train.
Verdict: If you like vampires, trains, or especially Vampire Trains, you need to watch this movie.