Priest, which was adapted from the graphic novel by South Korean artist Min-Woo Hyung, tries to evoke its comic roots with a lame and animated prologue. A voice-over chronicles the eons-long war between humans and vamps. See, the humans were losing until the Church (Catholicism is not mentioned, but implied) trained a cadre of knife-wielding, taekwondo-using supermen from childhood.
These priests, whose foreheads sport a tattooed crucifix (why?!), killed off all the marauding monsters.
Peace is restored and a brave new - totalitarian - world is created by the Church. We see this bleak world in retro-futuristic cityscapes ripped off from Michael Anderson's 1984 and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
Billboards spell out the new creed, "Faith. Work. Security." People are forced to pour out their hearts to the clergy in roadside video-phone confessional boxes that look alarmingly like port-o-potties.
The film shifts from sci-fi-land to a western motif when, a la John Ford's The Searchers, Bettany's niece Lucy (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by the head-honcho vampire, an awfully witty cowboy (Stetson and all) played by Karl Urban.
Bettany goes after Lucy with the help of a Priestess (an awfully sexy Maggie Q) and Lucy's beau, a sheriff played by Cam Gigandet who is duded out head to toe in cowboy gear. (No joke: He wears chaps and a tin star.)
High production values and slick editing can't save this picture. Nor does its overbearing soundtrack music, which tries to strong-arm viewers into believing they're watching a pulse-pounding thriller.
In reality, Priest has no pulse at all.
Priest * (out of four stars)
Directed by Scott Charles Stewart. With Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Cam Gigandet. Distributed by Screen Gems.
Running time: 1 hour, 27 mins
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, some gore, profanity, slimy vampires)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.