Priest is one of those flashy missed opportunities, a visually stimulating comic book flick that just couldn’t amp the substance metre up enough til it’s flush with style, and ultimately feels somewhat hollow. It’s still a gorgeous Blu Ray that will give your system a workout though, with some neat vampires and a great cast. Sometime in a murky post apocalyptic future, humanity lives in a giant gloomy city on the edge of oblivion, walled in for fear of vampires who have preyed upon them in the past. An order of warrior priests protects citizens and keeps order, until one rogue from their sect (Paul Bettany) discovers that the creatures may be back when an outsider couple (Stephen Moyer and Madchen Amick) have their daughter (Lily Collins) kidnapped from their desert dwelling outside the city. They come to Bettany for help, but the leader of his priesthood (a smug Christopher Plummer) is an obstinate son of a bitch and refuses to act. Bettany goes renegade along with Priestess (Maggie Q) and ventures into the wasteland to rescue Collins and fight these baddies. It’s frustrating because the look and design of this world is brilliant, like a dark opulant jewel that clearly has some thought put into it. But then… the dialogue and story are so numbingly pedestrian, straying not a kilometer into uncharted narrative waters to give us something even a little bit exciting or unpredictable. Quality jumps with Karl Urban’s dapper villain Black Hat, a vampire cowboy outlaw who oddly resembles what I’d imagine Stephen King’s Roland Deschain would look like if the powers that be took their heads out of their ass and recasted Idris Elba. But I digress. Like I said, terrific cast; Brad Dourif has a great cameo as a snide hustler peddling trinkets to superstitious townsfolk, and watch for the great Alan Dale too. Bettany always makes for a solid action hero, he just has a bit of trouble finding the right projects (have you seen that turd Legion? Good lord) that deserve bis talents. This one falls just short. It could have really used a few rounds of defibrillation from another screenwriter, and perhaps a hard R rating to take advantage of the horror aspects. Still, the vampires are creepy enough (echoes of Blade II are always welcome), the actors keep it going and there’s no shortage of style.
Rogue’s Gallery, given the slightly lamer title of Operation: Endgame, is a very odd little amalgamation of extreme violence, comedic banter and wannabe spy intrigue. It concerns a group of government agents holed up in some remote bunker, basically taking each other out one by one after someone among them murders their boss, Emporer (Bob Odenkirk). The cast is made up of two types of actors: sleek, distinct genre bad asses and quirky, less aesthetically streamlined comedians who stand out in this type of material very strangely. Fool (Joe Anderson) is the rookie, being shown the ropes of his first day by Chariot (a hilarious Rob Cordry). That’s where the plot starts, and that is also where it lost me. The rest of the film is just al of them bickering until it gets way beyond words, and then murdering each other in shamelessly gratuitous ways. Ellen Barkin stands out as Empress, a bitchy old tart who has it in for Devil (Jeffrey Tambor) another senior operative. Emilie De Ravin steps wayyyy outside her comfort zone as Hierophant, a psychotic little doll faced southern Belle who gives hulking Juggernaut (Ving Rhames) a run for his money. There’s also work from Odette Yustman, Maggie Q, Adam Scott, Brandon T. Jackson, and Zach Galifianakis as a weird character that I still can’t figure out, perhaps because he does not much of anything at all except mope around wearing a hazmat suit and looking very hungover. It’s cool to see these actors give each other shit and fight like two raccoons in a burlap sack (the violence in this is really vicious, especially when Ravin is involved), if not much else. Very odd stuff.