I don’t think anyone liked the look of The Last Witch Hunter. When the trailer hit showing Vin Diesel brandishing a flaming sword and some silly facial hair, it was immediately obvious that this was one of Diesel’s pet projects he does in between Fast & Furious films. However, Vin’s won me round to the Riddick series and I quite enjoyed the last one, so I was willing to give his latest ego trip a try.
800 years ago, a group of witch hunters led by a man named Kaulder (Vin Diesel) track down the Queen Witch, responsible for The Black Death. Despite suffering heavy losses, Kaulder manages to kill the witch, who curses him with immortality with her last breath. Flash forward to present day. The world is very different. Witches live among us in secret and have sworn never to use their magic against humans. Kaulder is still doing his thing, enforcing the law and hauling in the criminals. However, when his trusty companion Dolan (Michael Caine) is killed, Kaulder starts to unravel a plot involving ancient, dark magic. Oh, also Rose Leslie and Elijah Wood are in it.
After a puny 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and having read numerous reviews slating it, I was prepare for a godawful borefest. However, I ended up being entertained. This could be because my expectation bar was so low ants could step over it, but I can’t lie – I kinda liked it. There’s no denying that the story is rather lazy. It’s stitched together from cliches you’ve seen a thousand times over. The film it reminded me of most was the unfairly-maligned Constantine. Both have the same taut-lipped badass stomping through “the real world”, exposing the hidden supernatural one and both characters have same unfazed attitude to their work. Last Witch Hunter is silly, but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt in knowing that.
Nothing feels particularly new and it counts against the film. Vin Diesel is likeable enough as Kaulder. The film feels like there should be more quiet tragedy about a man who has watched friends and associates die over the centuries and can’t die himself. However, subtle emotion isn’t in really in Diesel’s wheelhouse, so it kind of gives up on that about halfway through, throws up its hands and says “You know what? He’s just a badass, deal with it!”. Rose Leslie is decent, although her character could have done with some serious fleshing out. She tags along and becomes a standard woman sidekick, which is a shame. Fans of Game of Thrones will know how much fire she has in her. Michael Caine spends most of the film having a nap, which I imagine was an easy day at the office. I was surprised to see Elijah Wood show up as the meek rookie Dolan. I wanted to see him in more of an active role, but the film forgets about him for a while before bringing him back at the end.
I’m aware that not everyone will appreciate some of the film’s more unique charms. It’s schlocky and it bumbles along with some truly weird pacing. It also feels a bit toothless. A bit of harsh language and violence would have amped up the entertainment factor considerably, but alas the call of the PG-13 certificate was too much. The Last Witch Hunter isn’t a good film, but I was never bored during it, which is more than I can say for some films of its ilk. It’s kind of alright, but I can’t see them slapping that on the DVD cover any time soon.
Fantasy, Adventure | USA, 2015 | 12 | Entertainment One | 7th March 2016 (UK) | Dir. Breck Eisner | Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Michael Caine, Julie Engelbrecht | Buy: [Blu-ray]