Season of the Witch
dir Dominic Sena
scr Bragi Schut
prd Alex Gartner, Charles Roven
with Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Robert Sheehan, Claire Foy, Christopher Lee, Rebekah Kennedy, Andrew Hefler, Fernanda Dorogi, Matt Devere
release US/UK 7.Jan.11
10/US Relativity 1h53
Season of the Witch
Medieval MapQuest: Moore, Cage and Thomsen

perlman graham sheehan
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Season of the Witch It's not easy to understand why anyone agreed to fund this film, as the box office drawing power of Nicolas Cage is a bit suspect after a string of stinkers like this bizarre, unscary medieval thriller.

After 12 years murdering men, women and children in the Crusades, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) have a crisis of conscience and desert the army. They end up in a remote town, where they agree to escort an accused witch (Foy) to a distant monastery that has the only incantation that can destroy her and halt the Black Death. They're accompanied by a resolute priest (Moore) and his sidekick (Thomsen), then joined by an altar boy (Sheehan) determined to become a knight. Of course the journey is fraught with surprises.

While director Sena makes sure the film looks quite good even with the dodgy effects work, Schut's script throws everything it can think of at the screen. The medieval setting allows for all manner of movie cliches, from ludicrous battle montages to oozing plague pustules (Lee is barely recognisable). Meanwhile, the set pieces stretch to include the standard rickety suspension-bridge scene and flying zombie monks. "We're gonna need more holy water", indeed.

But even within this schlocky genre, the plot is so preposterous that it boggles the mind. Nothing that happens makes any sense, even if you suspend the need for internal logic. Only one copy of this insanely long incantation? An all-powerful witch who can't do whatever she wants? At least we have a constant underscore to tell us whether the scene is meant to be scary or dramatic, because otherwise we might think it was a comedy spoof.

Even so, the silliest thing on the screen is Cage's hair: long blond ringlets when everyone else has a macho buzz cut. But then, if Cage didn't have a barmy hair-do, we might try to take the film seriously for a split second. This would be a big mistake, even with fairly decent acting across the board. At least the fine supporting cast members seem to be having a great time watching Cage chomp shamelessly on the scenery. Alas, it's not quite nutty enough to be a guilty pleasure.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 21.Dec.10

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall