The last witch hunter


Many films try & fail lớn pull off the kind of densely over-plotted action-fantasy that director Breck Eisner ("The Crazies," "Sahara") nails in "The Last Witch Hunter." The secrets to Eisner"s success are confidence và patience, both of which compensate for the film"s script whenever it becomes embarrassingly thin (especially during its rushed finale). Still, if nothing else, "The Last Witch Hunter" is so much more adept than other recent convoluted post-"The Matrix" adventure films about a superhuman men-of-action (Vin Diesel, in this case) who see the world for what it really is, và are humanity"s last hope of maintaining a peaceful status quo. While most other films sprint through expository dialogue, and bluster their way through action scenes, "The Last Witch Hunter" is measured enough to lớn make you want to suspend your disbelief.

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An especially charming Diesel plays Kaulder, a witch-slayer who was cursed to live forever by the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) back in ye olde viking days. An integral member of the mortal-led witch-hunting organization Axe & Cross, Kaulder has grown full of himself after centuries of walking the Earth unchallenged. But when Ellic (Michael Caine), Kaulder"s sidekick and the chronicler of his stories, dies on the day of his retirement, Kaulder investigates, and discovers a plot khổng lồ revive the centuries-dead Witch Queen.

Here"s where "The Last Witch Hunter" starts lớn get so dorky that you may want khổng lồ give yourself a wedgie for enjoying it. In order to lớn stop the Witch Queen, Kaulder must "remember death," a clue left for him by Ellic in smudged fingerprints all over one of Ellic"s most prized books. The Rolodex of enemies and fair weather contacts that Kaulder meets up with on his rocky road lớn remembering is embarrassingly preposterous. Their ranks include Max Schlesinger (Isaach De Bankolé), a blind pastry chef-cum-magician who makes cupcakes out of psychedelic moths, butterflies, & maggots, và Belilal (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), a squat, curse-slinging warlock whose bushy beard & barrel chest makes him look lượt thích one of ZZ Top"s touring bassists.

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What makes this scenario work are the periodic flashes of intelligence that prove that the film"s trio of screenwriters thought about what motivates Kaulder. Diesel"s usual cockiness suits his character. As he points out khổng lồ Dolan the 37th (Elijah Wood), Ellic"s successor at Axe và Cross, there"s nothing he hasn"t seen. Diesel is well-used in that sense, proving he"s more than a blunt instrument in scenes where he huskily broods and sweet-talks his way around the film"s most unwieldy exposition. Few action stars can convincingly mansplain their way through a scene where mystic rune stones that control the elements are used to lớn stop and start a thunderstorm. Diesel is on the short list. 

There are even fewer directors who are sensitive enough to lớn sell scenes as conceptually all-over-the-map as the ones showcased here. But thanks lớn Eisner, there are blessedly few scenes in "The Last Witch Hunter" that feel rushed (can we please get this guy to lớn direct the upcoming "Doctor Strange" movie"s sequel?). Romantic banter feels genuinely playful in scenes lượt thích when Kaulder & Chloe (Rose Leslie), a young witch, flirt at Chloe"s hookah bar. There aren"t nearly enough scenes where Eisner can flex his muscles và prove that he"s a stronger storyteller than the script with which he"s working; the best is probably when Chloe comes home and silently tries to ward off a threatening spirit with an array of light bulbs. This scene teaches you how to lớn watch it. No character has khổng lồ explain that the bulbs" light is Chloe"s only defense against whatever is threatening to lớn invade her home. You just pick up that knowledge by watching Eisner work.

Eisner"s direction is similarly thoughtful during big special-effects-driven mix pieces. He"s a sturdy choreographer, and none of the big kích hoạt scenes in "The Last Witch Hunter" are as good as those from his surprisingly atmospheric, recent remake of George Romero"s "The Crazies." But flashbacks lớn Diesel"s "Dungeons & Dragons"-worthy encounters with the Witch Queen & modern-day skirmishes with Belial do look good, và that"s not just because of Eisner"s keen eye for composition. "The Last Witch Hunter" is just generally poised in ways that most fantasies should be, but aren"t. There"s breathing room in scenes where characters have to lớn appear lớn be living with decisions they made a couple of scenes earlier. You know you"re seeing an atypically dopey but consummately well-assembled fantasy when poor Michael Caine has to lớn explain to lớn viewers the Witch Queen"s plan to spread a human-decimating plague using the various witches that Kaulder locked up over the years in the Axe and Cross"s "witch prison." "The Last Witch Hunter" may be corny at heart, but it"s cool enough to convince you otherwise while its creators sell you a story you"ve seen some iteration of many, many times before.


Simon Abrams

Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker và freelance film critic whose work has been featured inThe new york Times,Vanity Fair,TheVillage Voice,and elsewhere.