Release Date: May 13, 2011

This looks like a barrel of laughs.

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170/171 Max Braden Holy crap, batman! If there's a movie that demonstrates why you shouldn't bring a comic book to screen without some serious rewriting, this is it.

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Another Vampire moive? Geez. Do we really need another one of those? Apparently the answer is - and always will be - yes. After all, Dracula alone has been the subject of more films than any other fictional character. And the complete list of vampire films stretches so far only a person with absolutely no life, and I pretend to have one of those, would take the time to count them all.

Eddie-freaking-Murhphy starred in a vampire movie for chrissakes. You can make a vampire flick out of anything.

It comes as no surprise that Sony Screen Gems decided to convert Priest, a Tokyopop manhwa, or Korean comic book, into a film. Not only does it have Vampires, it’s also a graphic novel adaptation, a serious double whammy. Oh, and it’s also a western. Go figure.

Since it’s originally a comic book, that means that it carries large devoted following. Those darned die hard fans. This presents Sony with a dilemma. Do they stay truthful to the source material? Or grab the best bits and turn it into a generic Hollywood film?

Dilemma? Yeah, right. Eliminating major elements from the original comic such as fallen angels and zombies (maybe Sony they thought a Vampire western zombie movie with religious elements would be a bit too much for the average movie-goer), Priest had been watered down to a world that is devastated by the centuries long war between man and vampire. Now you’re speaking my language. In this world, a badass Priest turns against the church to battle a band of murderous vampires that kidnapped his niece. Naturally.
Scott Charles Stewart, whose experience lies much more in the visual effects realm, will direct. His resume that looks like a comprehensive list of summer tentpole releases over the last five years. He will have directed only one feature prior to Priest, 2010’s Legion, a biblical apocalypse, second coming of the messiah movie. Knowing this, Stewart’s inexperience looks like a gamble. Then again, maybe a guy who knows visual effects is all Sony really wants for this film. Typical.

The only cast in place is Paul Bettany who, though at the top of my “people who might be vampires” list, does not play a vampire. Instead, he will be taking on title character. Mr. Bettany has not been heard from in some time, in anything memorable anyway. A versatile actor, playing both Kirsten Dunst’s preppy love interest in Wimbledon and the evil albino monk in The Da Vinci Code, Bettany at one time seemed to be a Philip Seymour Hoffman in the making. But since the disappointing Da Vinci Code, he’s been mostly out of the public eye, which makes his casting a curiously inspiring choice. Once Priest is released, however, Bettany may have already made somewhat of a comeback. This year he will play none other than Charles Darwin in the British film Creation and in 2010 he will star in Stewart’s aforementioned Legion. Now it all makes sense.

I will give Bettany the benefit of the doubt and say Priest has the potential to be a fun, campy ride. But I remain cautious, and remember that Resident Evil and Underworld are franchises that have two sequels each. (Tom Macy/BOP)

Vital statistics for Priest
Main Cast Paul Bettany
Supporting Cast Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Cam Gigandet
Director Scott Stewart
Screenwriter Cory Goodman
Distributor Screen Gems (Sony)
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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