Walter Mencken 8 a.m., July 30
Wow. A five-genre pileup. Let’s make a list:
1: A buddy cop movie, complete with a hero (Paul Bettany, who never seems to tire of these religious-type gigs) who gets told to turn in his badge because he wants to go off on a personal revenge mission. Of course, he’s not really a cop; he’s a priest, graced with the supernatural skills needed to battle the vampires that stalk the land. So instead of being suspended from the force, he gets excommunicated. No matter: the sidekick (Cam Gigandet) is still a regular lawman, and actually lays his badge down on the table. In the film’s most interesting turn, tensions arise when it becomes clear that the partners may be on their way to a showdown.
2: A supernatural thriller. “To go against the Church,” our Priest is reminded again and again, “is to go against God.” Poor Priest, torn between honoring his vows and doing what he knows in his heart is right. And who could argue with him? He wants to save his own kin from the vampires! The only person standing in his way is an addled Christopher Plummer, bloviating incoherently. Cold, unfeeling Church authorities! Sure, they protect the populace from vampires, but they’re so mean! Happily, as a fellow priest reminds our hero, “Our power doesn’t come from the Church; it comes from God.” And the spiritual aspect yields the film’s one moment of genuine fun when Brad Dourif shows up as a holy water peddler.
3: A Western. More specifically, a tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. Bettany gets the gaunt face and low, laconic growl; bad guy Karl Urban gets the hat and the three-day beard.
The story takes place far in the future, but no matter: motorcycles are the new horses, and vampires are the new Indians – a once proud and powerful race now imprisoned on reservations. A train still plays a central role, and life far from the big city is still wild and woolly. This is probably the film’s strongest aspect.
4: A dystopian-future sci-fi pic. The Church-run cities where humanity takes refuge against the vampire menace are nasty and blue-lit; the sun doesn’t shine there even at noon. Plummer’s face plays Big Brother, endlessly droning on about how “God protects you” and “Absolution is the only way.” The viewer arrives at this awful future via an even more awful cartoon montage that lays down the story’s rather silly mythology. The only worthwhile moment comes early after our introduction to city life, during Priest’s visit to the video confessional. After he recites his sins, he gets a brief “Processing” message before video-Plummer offers trite counsel and assigns penance.
5: A straight-up horror movie. The vampires are only a teeny bit creepier than the usual cgi-zombie-thing, but the scene with the Queen is bloody and unsettling. And amid the general onslaught of vampire hordes, there are multiple single attacks that get played for shock value.
I could say more, but there isn’t too much point.
Reader rating: *
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