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Review: The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter
10.20.2015
5 10

PLOT: A centuries-old witch hunter teams with a helpful witch to crush the ancient opponent who cursed him with immortality and almost wiped out humanity.

REVIEW: The prospect of seeing Vin Diesel as a witch-slaying, death-defying badass seems like a can't miss proposition - at least if you're looking for no more than trashy fun from it - but THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is only intermittently enjoyable, never really cashing in on the possibilities of its farfetched premise. It isn't a disaster by any means, but it also never rises to the occasion of being more than just watchable, and while Diesel's diehard fans might be a little more forgiving, I'm guessing this film isn't about to kickstart a new franchise anytime soon. (Then again, if Vin wills it to happen, it just might.)

Neither Diesel nor his co-stars - Michael Caine, Elijah Wood and Rose Leslie among them - are helped much by a clunky screenplay that is filled with dialogue that is either laughable or stubbornly expository. No one expects Aaron Sorkin from THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, but the movie's humor is unbearably lame and its story is completely lacking in surprises. More a murder mystery than action extravaganza (its horror factor is quite low too), Breck Eisner's movie fills our ears with a plethora of details and explanations when its not unleashing torrents of ho-hum CGI mayhem that's certainly never scary and almost never impresses. Seen one flood of digital flies or a monster made our of bones, seen 'em all, and THE LAST WITCH HUNTER doesn't have anything up its sleeve that can be considered memorable.

A prologue taking place several centuries ago, during the height of the Black Death, sets the stage: Kaulder (Diesel) and his men seek to destroy the Queen Witch responsible for the hideous scourge that is gradually wiping out humanity. They do happen upon her, and Diesel has hardly any trouble killing her, but not before she curses him with immortality. The first of many head-scratching moments in the film: How dumb is it for a witch to "curse" her mortal enemy with immortality, which only guarantees he'll still be around to thwart any witch-related threats in the future? Naturally, a dead Kaulder would make the witch's comeback - this time in modern day New York - no problem at all, so the screenplay has it that the man still roams the streets stopping witchy doings and enjoying tete-a-tetes with Dolan the 36th (Caine) a priest who acts as Kaulder's advisor and friend. It must be said: Seeing Diesel and Caine act opposite one another is very odd indeed.

While the witch-slaying business is good for Kaulder (who really doesn't seem to mind being immortal, hence that witch's curse was a really dumb idea) until it becomes apparent a new slew of baddies are in town intent on - naturally - killing off humanity and taking over the world. Teaming up with a "good" witch (Leslie) and an eager young priest (Wood), Kaulder barnstorms his way through the city, looking for the main culprit behind this ominous menace. Duh, it's that witch he killed so long ago.

The film works swiftly, you must give it that. While practically every non-action scene is there to explain to us just what the hell is going on plotwise, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER gallops along clumsily but not without some energy. What halts the film from falling into the realm of "dumb fun" is the overall bland mood Eisner instills much of the time. It's not a very good-looking film and most of the fight scenes and CG chaos are staged without vigor. The entire production has an atmosphere of adamant mediocrity, as if too much effort into the story or visuals wasn't worth the bother. When the finale comes, it's an ugly, unappealing mess of a sequence, thoroughly lacking in thrills, while a predictable coda all but guarantees a sequel (assuming this is a hit).  

But let's face it, Vin Diesel is the reason the movie exists (he helped develop it) and he's the only thing people interested in the film really care about. And, well, he's Vin Diesel, of course, hitting all the notes Vin Diesel can hit. Diesel still exudes the steely charisma that got him this far, but he often seems as isolated as his character is supposed to be. Even though Kaulder's immortality is supposed to be one of those deals where he's doomed to painfully watch everyone he loves die, the movie doesn't allow Diesel any moments of soul-searching or regret. His interactions with the rest of the cast are monotone and mostly lacking in chemistry; Rose Leslie's feisty witch is an entertaining sidekick, but the movie doesn't make the relationship anything beyond obligatory. Wood, meanwhile, is stranded in a thankless role; sometimes it's as though the movie forgets he's in it. Fittingly, when THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is over, you'll soon forget you even saw it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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