The Last Witch Hunter
dir Breck Eisner
prd Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann
scr Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
with Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Julie Engelbrecht, Isaach De Bankole, Rena Owen, Joseph Gilgun, Michael Halsey, Lotte Verbeek, Sloane Coombs
release US/UK 21.Oct.15
15/US Summit 1h46
The Last Witch Hunter
I saw the light: Leslie and Diesel

caine wood olafsson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Last Witch Hunter Utterly preposterous, this action romp is essentially Underworld with witches, plus a meathead hero instead of a slinky heroine. It's also obviously designed as another franchise for Vin Diesel to strut his manly stuff in an environment where the production design does most of the acting for him. The result is violent, overrun by digital effects and enjoyably bonkers.

After killing a 13th century witch queen (Engelbrecht) and being cursed with immortality, Kaulder (Diesel) has spend 800 years working with the Axe and Cross, an underground group that keeps the world's witch population in check. His sidekick is the 36th Dolan (Caine), who is grooming a 37th (Wood) to take his place. Then they're attacked by the mysterious Belial (Olafsson), who seems hellbent, as it were, to revive the witch queen and unleash chaos on humanity. So Kaulder teams up with helpful witch Chloe (Leslie) to get to the bottom of things.

Loosely based on a Dungeons & Dragons character, the film opens with a snowy medieval scene that looks like an outtake from Game of Thrones, while the rubber-encased Engelbrecht resembles Star Trek's Borg queen. No, there isn't a single original idea in this movie, and the lazy script cycles through a swamp of expository dialog attempting to make sense of the mumbo jumbo. At least Eisner keeps the pace brisk while indulging in sparky jokes. Although the action is incoherent and ridiculous (why bring a big gun to a battle with a supernatural monster?).

Diesel does his usual growly leading man routine, generating a vague romantic spark with the up-for-it Leslie, who commands the screen with much more complexity. Caine and Wood offer a bit of gravitas in their scenes, while Olafsson has little to do but look like a scary escapee from a Finnish black metal band. Even so, there isn't much real tension in the movie, which gyrates through the usual narrative beats on its way to a "we'll make a sequel if you like this one" ending.

While much of the movie is drenched in grubby squalor, there are some terrific scenes set in more realistic Manhattan streets or colourful fantasies (a gummy bear sequence is delightfully pointless). In other words, this is perfectly serviceable as mindless entertainment that never remotely tries to include any subtext or thematic material. And there are just enough deranged touches to keep the audience smiling. Although hoping for a follow-up is perhaps a step to far.

cert 12 themes, violence 19.Oct.15

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