Did Paul Bettany know, when he donned the cowl of the albino monk in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, that he would soon be typecast as Hollywood’s go-to guy for God-bothering multiplex action movies? Even playing Charles Darwin in 2009’s ‘Creation’ doesn’t seem to have held back the tide, and now Bettany’s back on the cross for this nuts-and-bolts 3D adaptation of Korean artist Hyung Min-Woo’s long-running graphic novel series ‘Priest’.
Bettany plays the otherwise unnamed title character, one of a cadre of ass-kicking ascetics trained by the church to fight the scourge of eyeless, slug-like vampires that have almost tipped the world into chaos. And when the vamps bump off Priest’s salt-of-the-earth brother and kidnap his gingham-frocked, rosy-cheeked niece, our tattooed hero petitions his masters to let him off the leash to stamp out the plague once and for all.
‘Priest’ follows the current Hollywood vogue for geek-friendly, comic-inspired genre mash-ups, chucking elements of western, horror and sci-fi into its overheated pot. It’s predictably effects-heavy, and while the CG elements are a little more solid and inventive here than in, say, ‘Sucker Punch’ or ‘Jonah Hex’, the blurry 3D transfer serves to scupper any sense of visual spectacle.
Bettany is enjoyably terse in the lead role, but he never gets the chance to do any actual acting, while the likes of Brad Dourif, Christopher Plummer and Alan ‘Jim Robinson’ Dale are wasted in minor roles. All in all, it’s a painless affair, enjoyable enough while it lasts but, like its toothsome villains, destined to disintegrate in the cold light of day.