The Last Witch Hunter
Director: Breck Eisner
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie
There are perks to being an immortal who has walked the earth for 800 years. In this film, our immortal Vin Diesel gets to call Michael Caine ‘kid’, has Elijah Woods as something of a ‘hey you’ and beds a string of comely stewardesses.
In his spare time, he is supposed to kill witches. He instead acts like their kindly uncle, putting their mess straight and sending them away with a flea in their ear. He then beds another stewardess.
Sometime in the 14th century, Diesel’s Kaulder went head-to-head with the witch queen (a lot of ill-advised CGI)and killed her. Before she died, she cursed Kaulder with immortality. What you remember about that sequence is that Diesel has a lot of hair, a lot. In fact, it seems he is wearing a bear.
So, when the rest of the action takes place in today’s day and time, you are glad to see him again. That is, see him in his usual v-necked tees, jeans and a bald pate. He has been at it for 800 years and has destroyed covens and imprisoned a lot of bad witches. He is the ‘weapon’ of a church order and is handled by priests who are called Dolans.
His Dolan no 36 (Michael Caine) is about to retire when he is cursed and interrogated by the most lethal witch ever, Belial (Olafur Darri Olafsson, looking so second string that you wonder this is the best the dark side could muster). The only silver lining of this event is that Caine gets to sleep through the film in a magic-induced coma (lucky so-and-so). There is also the Forbidden Romance with dreamwalking witch Chloe (Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie).
The film has such a convoluted script (Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Melissa Wallack, D.W. Harper) that it confuses and bores you at the same time. And the dialogues, well, they are epic. When asked about women branded as witches and burnt at stake, Kaulder’s memorable reply is, “Salem was wrong.” Really, Diesel? Thanks for letting us know.
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There are other such gems. Diesel says in the course of the film, “You know what I am afraid of? Nothing.” There is enough CGI and elaborate set pieces, prominently featuring scorpion and beetle-like creatures, but they fail in the face of an essentially banal script.
It is apparent that Caine and Wood are just cashing their pay cheque. Even though Vin Diesel is earnest and trying hard, he cannot help this B-grade adventure/fantasy which also works like a whodunit without thrills.
If you are not creeped out by its misogyny, you are bored beyond endurance by its predictability. Full to the brim with witch folklore, it even fails to enter the so-bad-its-good club.
What you do need to take seriously is the threat of a sequel happily ensconced in the film’s climax. I am not watching that even if a witch casts a spell on me. And neither should you.
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