Priest (2011): The Searchers for the Apocalypse

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I tried to watch Priest once before. At that time, I just couldn’t get into the film. For whatever reason, it just didn’t click. I honestly could not tell you why. Either my bio-rhythms were off or the fact that Carl Urban appeared to bite the “big-one” at the start of the film or a combination of the two, put me off the film.

When I saw a copy of Priest going for 3 pounds at the bargain DVD section at Tesco, I picked it up. I figured that for 3 quid, I’d give it another go. I’m actually glad I did. Because despite the film’s Korean graphic novel beginnings, it really turned out to be a western. And not just any western either, it was The Searchers revisited; sans Natalie Wood, Jeff Hunter and The Duke.

The Creators:

Directed by Scott Stewart  with a screenplay written by Cory Goodman and based on Min-Woo Hyung‘s graphic novel of the same name, Priest really is an almost perfect western movie. I know, I know; some purists out there are going to scream to high heaven about not being faithful to the “original” concept. Which seems to be the clarion call of all “fan’s” of work adapted from a “manga-type” source.

But, I don’t care. In case the folks in the cheap seats missed that, I’ll repeat; I don’t care. Because I’ve never read the original graphic novel and apart from seeing the cover of it in a comic store downtown, I would have never known of its existence if it were not for IMDb and Wikipedia.

The ever-beautiful and kick-ass Maggie Q.
The ever-beautiful and kick-ass Maggie Q.

The Plot:

It is a future version of a world torn apart by war. The church has become all-powerful and in this verse, vampires have existed since the dawn of time. These are not the suave and sophisticated vamps of literature and film. These vampires are animalistic and more of a “hive” insect with a queen who’s lays vampire “eggs.” A legion of Priests were created by the church to battle the vampires and in a long epic battle they were defeated and the remaining creatures were put in “reservations.” (Sound familiar?)

The Priests are disbanded and forgotten. Years later, in an outpost in the Wasted Lands, a farmer along with his wife and daughter are breaking their backs trying to make a living out of the desert soil. As they sit down to their evening meal, they are attacked by a horde of vampires and the daughter hides in the basement only to be discovered by something.

The Cast:

Paul Bettany
Karl Urban
Cam Gigandet
Maggie Q
Lily Collins

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

The Device:

Just like today, you cannot trust the guys in charge and refusing to give up is good.

The Twist:

Family is in the eye of the beholder.

The Story:

After a long protracted battle between vampires and men, the men win and put the surviving vampires in “reservations.” It turns out that they’ve been pretty damned busy down there and when an outbreak occurs the leaders of the church refuse to believe that there is a problem. One priest (Paul Bettany), whose family it was that got attacked by this upsurge of vamps, goes against the church and decides to rescue his niece Lucy (Lily Collins). He is aided by the local lawman, Sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet) and a fellow Priestess (Maggie Q).

Carl Urban as Black Hat all that's missing is the serape.
Karl Urban as Black Hat all that’s missing is the serape.

It turns out that the renegade vampires are being led by a former Priest, Black Hat (Karl Urban) who was lost to the vampires at the beginning of the film. He’s kidnapped Lucy to draw the Priest to him.

The Characters:

Paul Bettany as the Priest is all guttural angst and stoic grimness. He pretty much feels like Ethan in The Searchers but without the great lines that The Duke had in his film. Karl Urban as Black Hat is just, well, Karl Urban; there is not part that I’ve ever seen the man portray that doesn’t enthral me. Despite his tiny amount of screen time, when he is on-screen he blows everyone else away. Lily Collins, who was a relative newcomer when this film was made, did a brilliant job and even when she had snot running down her lower lip; still looked amazing.

As did Maggie Q as the kick-ass Priestess who helps Bettany track down all the bad vampires. Cam Gigandet’s sheriff was good at filling the Jeffrey Hunter role as the young guy who wants to make sure that girlfriend Lucy survives her reunion with her Uncle Priest.  And in the cameo department,  Brad Dourif was brilliant as the Snake Oil salesman who is touting the effectiveness of his “holy water.” And  Christopher Plummer  was great as the treacherous and “holier-than-thou” head of the church who banishes the Priest for even daring to presume that vampires have again become a threat.

The Verdict:

Despite the dismal reviews that this film garnered, I liked it. The second I made the  western connection, I was on-board and enjoying the show. The sets combined with the shooting locations and the CGI all made for a believable western-type apocalyptic arena for these “cowboys and indians” to do battle.

It’s pretty obvious that the creators of the film, loved western movies. The sets and the “frontier” towns would not have looked out-of-place in a Leone Spaghetti western. This combined with the epic scenery throughout the film made it look like The Searchers married to Once Upon a Time in the West.

A real 4 star out of 5 for me, just because of the loving “homage” to a great western that did not follow the original too closely and left things open for a sequel which, sadly, will probably not happen due to the poor performance at the box-office.

If you like/love westerns you’ll probably enjoy this film.

Bettany "searching" on the back of his "steed."
Bettany “searching” on the back of his “steed.”

Natalie Wood’s Death Certificate Changed…Finally

In her last film Brainstorm (1983)
In her last film Brainstorm (1983) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actress Natalie Wood‘s death certificate has been amended to say her mysterious drowning in 1981 also involved “undetermined factors”.

So it’s only taken 31 years for authorities to act on legal statements that have been common knowledge for years. And amazingly, yes amazingly, Robert Wagner is NOT a suspect.

Wow. The wheels of justice certainly take a long time to turn around, don’t they?

I’ve read the statements, especially the statement give by the boat’s captain. Dennis Davern has admitted that he lied in 1981 when he gave his original statement to police. He new statement of the nights events prior to the ‘disappearance’ and then discovery of Natalie Wood sounds like a clear case of guilt on Wagner’s part.

Davern clearly believes that Wagner was instrumental in Natalie’s death. Davern wanted to radio authorities and set up a search of the area. Wagner denied him permission until it was too late. Criminal negligence it the term that springs immediately to my mind. It obviously crossed the ex-captain’s mind as well.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like Wagner (known as RJ to his friends). I’ve always liked his acting work and he is one of the few actors left who went through the old ‘studio system’ that gave us such stars as Rock Hudson and (yep you guessed it) Natalie Wood.

Natalie was a child actress who managed to continue her career as she outgrew the adolescent roles that she’d cut her teeth on. Wagner and Wood were a star crossed couple who would marry, divorce and marry again.

They both had their choice of any partner and both ‘played’ the field before they were married and then married other folks after their initial divorce. After they married the second time, things were not all right in Xanadu.

The night that Natalie Wood would lose her life in mysterious circumstances; she was on a break from her latest film, with co-star Christopher Walken. She made a big show of her affection of the then young Walken and Wagner didn’t like it. Blazing row after blazing row broke out through the entire evening.

Walken, to give him credit, appeared to distant himself from the distasteful arguments and has, so far, not had his name sullied by the evenings events.

I never thought once during the entire 31 years after her death that Wagner (RJ to his friends) was involved in any way with her drowning. Then I read the legal statements that had been made by not just the boats captain, but the Coast Guard officer who was involved with the body’s recovery.

I was stunned. This was beginning to read like a cover up of such huge proportions that would equal the Paul Bern ‘suicide’ and the William  Desmond Taylor‘s ‘suicide’ and other scandals of a previous century.

Hollywood has always been a city of ‘damage control.’ The studios learned their lesson well after the Fatty Arbuckle debacle. Even when the victim was the universally loved Natalie Wood the damage control mechanism started automatically when word of her disappearance and death surfaced.

Was the fact that Wood had almost completed her obligation to the film that she and Walken were working on outweigh the fact that Wagner had a hit television program that went out weekly and was generating large amounts of income for the studios?

Was Wagner considered more important in the whole scheme of things because he was still a big earner for tinsel town? Obviously the studio brass had already decided that Brainstorm (the film that she and Walken were working on) looked to be a stinker, therefore not much of a money maker.

Wagner by the very fact that he was a man, did not have the same problems that an aging actress faces when she reaches that certain age. Was he considered the best bet to cover up for and therefore continue to make money for the producers and studios?

Or was the ‘damage control’ mechanism so well oiled that it automatically started covering up what had really happened? More importantly, is it still doing that same job 31 years on.

I don’t think we will ever find out. I think the oligarchy is still so ‘in control’ of the publicity and information that is released to the peasants that make up their target demographic that the likelihood of the ‘real’ truth being revealed is very slim indeed. I also think that the real truth of what happened 31 years ago was lost in the time wasted forming a ‘real’ search for her instead of the farcical events that took place.

It could well be that Robert Wagner is innocent of any wrong doing. The police are certainly not shy in stating that as far as their concerned RJ isn’t a suspect. Walken is still refusing to talk the incident at all. But at least the cause of death has been amended and that may or may not help solve this mystery.

Sorry Natalie, I am afraid that it is a case of way too little, way too late.

English: Natalie Wood's star on the Hollywood ...
English: Natalie Wood’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)