Priest review

The forces of religion and splashy FX clash awkwardly again in Scott Stewart’s follow-up to Legion, which sees the latter’s archangel Paul Bettany back for more righteous violence.

This time he’s the titular clergyman, whose church is an all-powerful order of assassins offering salvation from a race of feral vampires. Bettany and co’s superhuman training has kept the blood-sucking threat in check for years.

But when Priest’s niece (Lily Collins) goes missing, he breaks his vows and goes hunting for the vampires he believes responsible.

From the off, the odds are stacked in Priest’s favour. As he bats away one slobbering, CG vampire after another it’s clear that he’s got what it takes to set things straight, and there’s sadly little Karl Urban’s dark antagonist can do to raise the stakes.

Desert lawman Cam Gigandet and Maggie Q’s Priestess tag along for the ride, but since they’re little more than glorified set dressing – only here so Priest has someone to talk to – we’re never really invested in their survival.

Like so many of his class of filmmakers, Stewart thrives on the spectacle he borrows from the likes of Blade Runner, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. But he never bothers to understand that depth of story is a necessary foundation for his surface spark.

Any prayers for character development beyond Priest’s basic outline – bad-ass kicks ass – go sadly unheeded.

There’s a wealth of material to be mined from crises of faith and the idea of the church as supreme governor. But it quickly becomes apparent that subtext is too much to ask of a film that just wants cowboys and clergymen to fight vampires.

Pretty pictures, yes, but spiritually bankrupt.

Promising premise, potentially meaty issues, but the result aspires to be little more than fancy-looking demo video for your next HD-TV. Another shoddy 3D conversion job, too.

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