dir Scott Stewart
scr Cory Goodman
prd Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen, Mitchell Peck, Sam Raimi
with Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Christopher Plummer, Alan Dale, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Madchen Amick, Jacob Hopkins, Dave Florek
release UK 6.May.11, US 13.May.11
11/UK Screen Gems 1h27
The vampire express: Collins and Bettany

urban gigandet q
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Priest Bettany reteams with Legion director Stewart for another loud religious-themed action movie. But the po-faced filmmaking and acting only highlights how unoriginal it is, from production design to music to action sequences.

In the distant future, vampires have been vanquished to reservations by fierce warrior priests, whose order was then disbanded. But with rumours of a new attack, one priest (Bettany) returns to action, violating the direct order of his monsignor bosses (Plummer and Dale). Teaming up with a rural sheriff (Gigandet), he heads into the dystopic landscape to rescue his niece (Collins), who was kidnapped by an old colleague (Urban) who's now fanged and evil. As they catch up with him, they're joined by another rogue priestess (Maggie Q).

Everything about this film screams "Cliche!" from the bleached-out post-apocalyptic camerawork to the ubiquitous long coats. It's the Wild West with Batman-style gadgetry, and while there are clever nods to both genres, the result is so contrived that we never buy into the story. It doesn't help that the stunts are so heavily digitised that the fights never look remotely real. Mortals thrown from 100mph trains simply brush off the dust and rejoin the carnage while eyeless vampires bound around like slobbering, toothy Spider-men.

This might work if there was some fun to be had, but everything is so over-serious that it becomes numbingly corny. And it doesn't help that the rasped dialog is seriously awful, as is a painfully obvious musical score and the overuse of empty religious themes and cross imagery. Even the forbidden lust between priests rings false. So even though the movie has a breathless pace and a clearly expensive visual sheen (the 3D is irrelevant), it's actually quite dull to watch.

In the middle of this, the cast doesn't have much to do. Bettany gives yet another committed performance as a true believer standing up against a rigidly pious society. And Plummer gets the thankless Amity Island Mayor role as a grump who's unbending for no reason at all. No one else really registers at all, even though it's clearly set up to become a franchise. Instead, it feels like this year's Jonah Hex.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 4.May.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall