The time has come. The end is here. We've all been very naughty. It's time to pay the piper. It's time for all of humanity to snuff it. Oh dear. But fear not! Paul Bettany has cut off his wings and rallied to our cause. Get ready for the WWE Angelic Smackdown™! (But only on pay-per-view.)

Remember when Paul Bettany had an acting career? In a steady slide that began harmlessly with the sleight romance of Wimbledon, Bettany is now reduced to cardboard cut-out bad guys and action heroes. A Beautiful Mind and Master And Commander seem but a distant memory. And sadly for Bettany, he's about to do it all again in Scott Stewart's Priest, his next unholy horror action opus due next year.

As a director, Stewart handles drama like a good visual affects man (which is what he is). His poor grasp of drama is evident in the lengthy sections of meaningless character exposition and endless moralisations over the waste of humanity. These sections bear little relation to the unfolding events and serve only to lengthen the gaps between the all-important (and all too few) action sequences. The birth of humanity's last great hope (we never learn the infant's name but it's probably ‘JC’) is another example of mishandled drama. While, at less than a minute, the delivery of little ‘JC’ may well truly be a miracle, the time committed to the sequence is so scant that we have no opportunity to begin to care. Other moments of drama look plain ridiculous. The barely suppressed panic on the faces of our protagonists when met with a test pattern on a television screen provides a moment of unintended humour. But perhaps this is the film's most cutting indictment on our society: the first sign of the impending apocalypse will be TV failure!

Performances are largely inconsequential. Lucas Black, in his portrayal of Jeep (is that really his name?), proves that his uncharismatic performance in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift was no fluke. Dennis Quaid is... well, just is (remember when he had an acting career?) Kudos must go to Kevin Durand, however, as the angelic warlord, Gabriel. In his minute and a half of screen time, Durand exerts a level of gravitas entirely uncharacteristic of an action oriented, faux religious fluff piece such as this.

The tragedy is that in the hands of someone like Sam Raimi, this could have been a lot of fun. It has so much in common with The Evil Dead and the more recent Drag Me To Hell, that Raimi would be a natural to direct this. But unfortunately in the hands of a visual effects supervisor, this cause is lost.
Stuart Jamieson

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