Sparks turn to ash

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

re­duces to ash all the sup­posed clev­er­ness and hip­ness that has gone be­fore and makes you won­der why on earth you came. Some­how it wouldn’t shock me if Vin Diesel was still around in 800 years. He’s just so durable. That’s the im­pres­sive length of time he’s been fight­ing the good fight in The Last Witch Hunter, an amus­ing enough su­per­nat­u­ral ac­tion thriller di­rected by Breck Eis­ner ( Sa­hara, The Cra­zies).

Diesel is Kaul­der, the witch hunter of the ti­tle. We first en­counter him in a Game of Thrones- meets- Mac­beth scene in which he has a show­down with the Witch Queen (Julie En­gel­brecht). He and his flam­ing sword seem to pre­vail, but there is a twist in that he’s ren­dered im­mor­tal, which is why he’s still the world’s top coven buster eight cen­turies later when the ac­tion moves to mod­ern-day New York City.

We learn there has been a witch-hu­man truce in place for some time. How­ever there are al­ways a few bad ap­ples bent on wip­ing out hu­man­ity, which keeps Kaul­der busy. In­deed it seems the prac­ti­tion­ers of dark magic are plan­ning a ma­jor evil event.

Kaul­der re­ports to a reli­gious-seem­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion called The Axe and Cross, where his min­der is known as Dolan. At the start of the film he’s been with the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) for 50 years. But when Dolan 36 suf­fers a set­back, Dolan 37 (Eli­jah Wood) takes over. Just like the Bush fam­ily re­ally. Kaul­der also meets a saucy good witch, Chloe (an ap­peal­ing Rose Leslie, Jon Snow’s wild­ing lover in Game of Thrones.) To­gether this un­likely trio will face the forces of dark­ness.

There are some neat sto­ry­lines ex­plored here. I like the idea of peace­ful witches liv­ing le­gally on Earth, tak­ing self­ies on their smart­phones like ev­ery­one else. When we first meet Chloe she is run­ning a hip witches-only bar. The es­tab­lish­ment has not vi­o­lated any codes, she tells Kaul­der when he drops in, “there are no hu­mans here’’.

Kaul­der’s longevity is spun to good ef­fect: he calls Caine’s Dolan “kid” and at one point ad­mits: “Salem was wrong. Those women were in­no­cent.’’ Diesel does the one-lin­ers well enough, even if his smirk is in dan­ger of creep­ing to­wards the Bruce Wil­lis zone, and the dis­par­ity be­tween his Kaul­der and Wood’s Dolan adds an en­joy­able phys­i­cal com­edy.

Yet while the script has its mo­ments — a war­lock spik­ing cakes with magic in­sects protests “It is not il­le­gal to sell mind-al­ter­ing bugs” — it is un­even and there are some real clangers. “She will never truly per­ish,’’ we are told of the Witch Queen, “’til her heart beats its last’’.

When it comes to the ac­tion-thriller el­e­ment, it’s a bit light on, the set-piece witch­fight­ing scenes too few and far be­tween and rather blandly re­solved. The vi­o­lence is stylised, there’s no swear­ing or sex, but the su­per­nat­u­ral el­e­ments might be a bit scary for younger chil­dren. I’d sug­gest 12-plus to err on the side of cau­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.