It's CSI meets Harry Potter meets Blade!
The Fast and Furious star swaps gear-sticks for broomsticks and goes after a coven of evil witches in The Last Witch Hunter.Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, the Witch Hunter of the title who was cursed with immortality centuries ago. Grieving his long since deceased wife and child, Kaulder spends his days solving magical mysteries and fighting evil witchcraft along with a succession of priestly mentors called the Dolans. While Kaulder has survived the Middle Ages and everything following them, his fetching medieval wig and beard unfortunately haven’t, and Diesel is as folically challenged as usual for most of the film. If you do get bored (and it’s more than likely) have some fun by imagining that Diesel’s character from the Fast and Furious films and this immortal witch hunter are the same person.Diesel’s acting certainly doesn’t make that too much of a stretch. The present day-Kaulder works as a kind of subcontractor for the Catholic Church, hunting witches through apparently mundane crime scenes: think of this as a kind of CSI meets Harry Potter meets Blade (although this film is not nearly as incredible as that mixture sounds). Kaulder’s relatively cushy modern life is interrupted after his friend Dolan 36th (Michael Caine) is killed in mysterious circumstances. Determined to get to the bottom of the ghoulish goings on, Kaulder teams up with his friend’s successor, Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood) and good witch Chloe (Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones).
The middle portion of the film seems drawn out, and some dull and uninspired dialogue does nothing to help matters. One of the main problems with the film stems from trying to cram too much magical mumbo-jumbo (for want of a better word) into the already anaemic script. The middle section plays like a Halloween episode of Miss Marple on acid, with countless bizarre and weak characters discussing unbelievably complex magic that seems to have little bearing on the major plot points. The incredibly heavy score tries to add clear-cut signifiers where the dialogue could be a little sparse, to nauseating effect.
Based on Diesel’s previous form (franchises Fast and Furious and The Chronicles of Riddick) it wouldn’t be outlandish to assume that The Last Witch Hunter is intended as the first in a series. However, the clue might be in the title as far as this film’s franchise hopes go. While the CGI is impressive enough here (a character called The Sentinel is pretty darn scary), a less than strong script and some unenthusiastic delivery of tawdry lines dulls most of the magic from the visual effects.
The middle section of The Last Witch Hunter plays like a Halloween episode of Miss Marple on acid.
Based on the success, or lack thereof, of witchy films such as Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) and Season of the Witch (2011), it doesn’t seem that there’s much of an appetite for anything occult, even if it is Halloween. Nevertheless, there are some signs that this film could be the accelerator for another Diesel vehicle of the future; as far as films about immortality, witch craft and curses go, this film isn’t the worst, and some changes to the score, script and mise-en-scène (at times oppressively dim) could be enough to make a Witch Hunter sequel.
This isn’t a film that’s bad enough to be enjoyed just for its badness. Equally, it’s not going to be up there in anyone’s Top 10 lists come the end of this year. For fans of Vin Diesel/witchcraft/CGI ghouls and monsters, The Last Witch Hunter is probably worth a watch. For me, I just wanted to know what black magic it was that convinced Michael Caine to take this role.
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