Skip to main content

They call him "The Weapon".

The Last Witch Hunter
(2015)

(SPOILERS) Don’t you shake your gory locks at Vin, pestilent witch-hags, and definitely not when he’s sporting some proficiently hirsute wig-age himself. Something of a dream project for Vin (but aren’t they all?), being a big D&D fan (the big, bald, lovably nerdy schlub), and another of his doomed dreams for a franchise starter. No Vin, no one wants to see you non-Dom (well, I’d rather like to see you Riddicking-out again, but any chance of further escapades there seem done and dusted), I suspect not even xXx-ing. In this case, though, mostly because The Last Witch Hunter’s rather boring.


I like a good B-witch movie as much as the next person content to make light of the terrible injustices perpetrated through the Middle Ages and beyond by vilifying the old ways and accusing anyone who took one’s non-fancy of being one, but this isn’t among their number, alas. I’d much rather encore the daft but fun Nic Cage Season of the Witch. That at least was period-centric, and gave Nic a titan of hair tendrils. Here, Vin, wanting to play husky modern man Vin, can’t even be bothered to stay put. Before we know it, having defeated the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) and been cursed with immortality, like an even less expressive Connor McLeod, follicly flatulent McKaulder is given an extreme makeover, resurfacing with familiar shiny pate and in the old 21st, slaying dread witches (now a race, distinct from humans) for the saintly order of The Axe and Cross.


There’s an assortment of familiar faces lending support, from Michael Caine, well into his 80s but appealingly showing he’s as ready to swoop in for a payday and a payday only, the art be damned, as he was 30 years ago, playing Kaulder’s right-hand man (Vin unconvincingly refers to him as “kid”; they have zero rapport), to Elijah Wood as a slightly creepy priestly replacement (is there any other Wood role, aside from innocent; creepy tells you enough about the character’s ultimate destination, anyway), to Rose Leslie of Game of Thrones, the evidence suggesting she should steer clear of the posh accent (she looks like she’s having a devil of a time chewing on it), as a good witch. 


Occasionally, someone shows up and lends a touch of class, such as Isaach De Bankole’s blind dealer witch, but portly bad guy Belial (Olafur Darri Olafsson) isn’t fooling anyone that he’s a match for the Diesel (although his fake beard is equally fake looking, so there’s that).


Vin’s been here with doomed genre forays before, of course, such as the well-meaning but largely banal Babylon A.D. Witch Hunter likewise arrives laden with clichés. It comes as no surprise that the not-especially-interesting Witch Queen, the presumed vanquished foe of the first scene, wishes to stage a rematch, or that she does so in the company of a bucket load of CGI. Meanwhile Vin, despite 800 years to come to terms with his lot, is still doting over lost love, and annoyingly obsessed with taking a vision quest of which no good can come.


The Last Witch Hunter is blessed with a plot so undemanding, it’s difficult to summon any resolve trying to relate it, so I won’t even try. I don’t really blame director Breck Eisner (brought into replace Timur Bekmambetov), since his Crazies remake (already half a decade old) was really quite respectable. And Dean Semler ensures the visuals look forgettably proficient enough. No, mostly it’s the writers who warrant acrimony. I’ll hold off on criticising Cory Goodman, without anything else to compare against, whose Blacklist script got this moving, but the rewrite by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, go-to guys for shite fantasy vehicles (Dracula Untold, Gods of Egypt) is probably the chief culprit. That and the problem of Vin’s enthusiasm for different genres outweighing his adaptability. This is closer to Arnie taking on one of these sorts of roles in his late ‘90s-early ‘00s decline, and rather suggests an actor who mistakenly thinks he has the star power to get by through playing his own self-styled type.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mondo bizarro. No offence man, but you’re in way over your head.

The X-Files 8.7: Via Negativa I wasn’t as down on the last couple of seasons of The X-Files as most seemed to be. For me, the mythology arc walked off a cliff somewhere around the first movie, with only the occasional glimmer of something worthwhile after that. So the fact that the show was tripping over itself with super soldiers and Mulder’s abduction/his and Scully’s baby (although we all now know it wasn’t, sheesh ), anything to stretch itself beyond breaking point in the vain hope viewers would carry on dangling, didn’t really make much odds. Of course, it finally snapped with the wretched main arc when the show returned, although the writing was truly on the wall with Season 9 finale The Truth . For the most part, though, I found 8 and 9 more watchable than, say 5 or 7. They came up with their fair share of engaging standalones, one of which I remembered to be Via Negativa .

Isn’t it true, it’s easier to be a holy man on the top of a mountain?

The Razor’s Edge (1984) (SPOILERS) I’d hadn’t so much a hankering as an idle interest in finally getting round to seeing Bill Murray’s passion project. Partly because it seemed like such an odd fit. And partly because passion isn’t something you tend to associate with any Murray movie project, involving as it usually does laidback deadpan. Murray, at nigh-on peak fame – only cemented by the movie he agreed to make to make this movie – embarks on a serious-acting-chops dramatic project, an adaptation of W Somerset Maugham’s story of one man’s journey of spiritual self-discovery. It should at least be interesting, shouldn’t it? A real curio? Alas, not. The Razor’s Edge is desperately turgid.

You have done well to keep so much hair, when so many’s after it.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) (SPOILERS) Hitherto, I was most familiar with Jeremiah Johnson in the form of a popular animated gif of beardy Robert Redford smiling and nodding in slow zoom close up (a moment that is every bit as cheesy in the film as it is in the gif). For whatever reason, I hadn’t mustered the enthusiasm to check out the 1970s’ The Revenant until now (well, beard-wise, at any rate). It’s easy to distinguish the different personalities at work in the movie. The John Milius one – the (mythic) man against the mythic landscape; the likeably accentuated, semi-poetic dialogue – versus the more naturalistic approach favoured by director Sydney Pollack and star Redford. The fusion of the two makes for a very watchable, if undeniably languorous picture. It was evidently an influence on Dances with Wolves in some respects, although that Best Picture Oscar winner is at greater pains to summon a more sensitive portrayal of Native Americans (and thus, perversely, at times a more patr

Schnell, you stinkers! Come on, raus!

Private’s Progress (1956) (SPOILERS) Truth be told, there’s good reason sequel I’m Alright Jack reaps the raves – it is, after all, razor sharp and entirely focussed in its satire – but Private’s Progress is no slouch either. In some respects, it makes for an easy bedfellow with such wartime larks as Norman Wisdom’s The Square Peg (one of the slapstick funny man’s better vehicles). But it’s also, typically of the Boulting Brothers’ unsentimental disposition, utterly remorseless in rebuffing any notions of romantic wartime heroism, nobility and fighting the good fight. Everyone in the British Army is entirely cynical, or terrified, or an idiot.

It’s not as if she were a… maniac, a raving thing.

Psycho (1960) (SPOILERS) One of cinema’s most feted and most studied texts, and for good reason. Even if the worthier and more literate psycho movie of that year is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom . One effectively ended a prolific director’s career and the other made its maker more in demand than ever, even if he too would discover he had peaked with his populist fear flick. Pretty much all the criticism and praise of Psycho is entirely valid. It remains a marvellously effective low-budget shocker, one peppered with superb performances and masterful staging. It’s also fairly rudimentary in tone, character and psychology. But those negative elements remain irrelevant to its overall power.

My Doggett would have called that crazy.

The X-Files 9.4: 4-D I get the impression no one much liked Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), but I felt, for all the sub-Counsellor Troi, empath twiddling that dogged her characterisation, she was a mostly positive addition to the series’ last two years (of its main run). Undoubtedly, pairing her with Doggett, in anticipation of Gillian Anderson exiting just as David Duchovny had – you rewatch these seasons and you wonder where her head was at in hanging on – made for aggressively facile gender-swapped conflict positions on any given assignment. And generally, I’d have been more interested in seeing how two individuals sympathetic to the cause – her and Mulder – might have got on. Nevertheless, in an episode like 4-D you get her character, and Doggett’s, at probably their best mutual showing.

You’re a disgrace, sir... Weren’t you at Harrow?

Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (1966) (SPOILERS) I hadn’t seen this one in more than three decades, and I had in mind that it was a decent spy spoof, well populated with a selection of stalwart British character actors in supporting roles. Well, I had the last bit right. I wasn’t aware this came from the stable of producer Harry Alan Towers, less still of his pedigree, or lack thereof, as a sort of British Roger Corman (he tried his hand at Star Wars with The Shape of Things to Come and Conan the Barbarian with Gor , for example). More legitimately, if you wish to call it that, he was responsible for the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu flicks. Our Man in Marrakesh – riffing overtly on Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana in title – seems to have in mind the then popular spy genre and its burgeoning spoofs, but it’s unsure which it is; too lightweight to work as a thriller and too light on laughs to elicit a chuckle.

I tell you, it saw me! The hanged man’s asphyx saw me!

The Asphyx (1972) (SPOILERS) There was such a welter of British horror from the mid 60s to mid 70s, even leaving aside the Hammers and Amicuses, that it’s easy to lose track of them in the shuffle. This one, the sole directorial effort of Peter Newbrook (a cameraman for David Lean, then a cinematographer), has a strong premise and a decent cast, but it stumbles somewhat when it comes to taking that premise any place interesting. On the plus side, it largely eschews the grue. On the minus, directing clearly wasn’t Newbrook’s forte, and even aided by industry stalwart cinematographer Freddie Young (also a go-to for Lean), The Aspyhx is stylistically rather flat.

The best thing in the world for the inside of a man or a woman is the outside of a horse.

Marnie (1964) (SPOILERS) Hitch in a creative ditch. If you’ve read my Vertigo review, you’ll know I admired rather than really liked the picture many fete as his greatest work. Marnie is, in many ways, a redux, in the way De Palma kept repeating himself in the early 80s only significantly less delirious and… well, compelling. While Marnie succeeds in commanding the attention fitfully, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. And Hitch, digging his heels in as he strives to fashion a star against public disinterest – he failed to persuade Grace Kelly out of retirement for Marnie Rutland – comes entirely adrift with his leads.

You know what I sometimes wish? I sometimes wish I were ordinary like you. Ordinary and dead like all the others.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) (SPOILERS) Bryan Forbes’ adaptation of Mark McShane’s 1961’s novel has been much acclaimed. It boasts a distinctive storyline and effective performances from its leads, accompanied by effective black-and-white cinematography from Gerry Turpin and a suitably atmospheric score from John Barry. I’m not sure Forbes makes the most of the material, however, as he underlines Séance on a Wet Afternoon ’s inherently theatrical qualities at the expense of its filmic potential.