If you are new around here, you missed the cinematic event of 2010 on this blog, and that was the Paul-Bettany-as-a-fallen-angel feature Legion. In which case you cannot be expected to know the joy and anticipation with which I awaited the release of Priest, another vaguely religious film starring Mr Bettany and directed by Scott Charles Stewart.
But oh, how long I had to wait! Its initial August release was pushed back to January to facilitate a post-production 3D conversion. And then it was pushed to May for no good reason at all, except, perhaps, to torture me.
It opens finally on Friday the 13th, and it is all I could have hoped for and more. Paul Bettany is once again badass, inexplicably tattooed, and sporting a terrible American accent. He has scars! He is full of angst! He has crazy fighting skills! In 3D! Oh, it is pretty much the best thing ever.
So far as Plot, there’s an animated introduction to the war with the vampires. Apparently they’re all on reservations now (subtle!) and not a problem because the Church has got it all under control thanks to ninja priests. Hooray! The current Church, though, is basically just Christopher Plummer on a JumboTron. And one of my favorite manifestations of the Church’s control over the city was the lines for the confessionals, looking like nothing so much as a port-a-pottie line with armed guards.
But anyway! There would be no movie if the vampires really *were* under control, so they attack a farmhouse in the Pioneer Wild West District of the postvampocalypse, home to Mr Bettany’s brother (Bill the Vampire), and his wife (Gordon Cole’s favorite waitress, Shelly Johnson) and daughter. The daughter of course is kidnapped, and when news of this reaches Mr Bettany he Defies The Church and heads out to kill vampires once again. Which makes a lot of sense when you see his apartment; hunting vampires who kidnapped his niece has got to be less depressing than spending another minute in that place.
I’m not actually sure why the Church cares that he goes. It seems to me it would be easier all around if they just let him go and fight a bunch of vampires and die, and then he’ll be out of their hair. They clearly do care though, because they sent three boy ninjas of color (who never have names, let alone any lines), and Maggie Q (who gets to kick all kinds of ass). Perhaps the film couldn’t figure out any other way to get him some backup, and they figured it would take more than Mr Bettany and the asshole bartender from Burlesque to take on a train full of vampires.
Of course, looking for any sort of logic in a film like this is ridiculous. Logic is not the point. The point is Paul Bettany and Maggie Q zipping around an epic CGI landscape, pulling crazy physics-defying stunts, killing lots of non-sparkling vampires, and generally being awesome in swishy black coats and stompy boots. Hello, I think we have found the perfect 2011 Halloween costume.
Like Legion, it rips off other films with great delight. Two of the most obvious are the motorcycle from Tron and the musically-conducted violence from The Boondock Saints It took great force of will for me to not declare “THERE WAS A FIRE FIGHT!!” in my best Willem Dafoe voice.
Also like Legion, it leaves the end blatantly open for a sequel which will never happen. TRAGICALLY. My life, so hard.