THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

As many of you know, I’m not exactly the biggest Vin Diesel fan. Nothing against the guy, I hear he himself is really nice, but as an actor, I’m not entirely familiar with his work. I never watched the Fast and Furious movies, with the exception of FURIOUS 7 [2015]. He voiced the robot from IRON GIANT [1999] (good movie) and Groot from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014] (great movie). Oh, and I did enjoy the two Riddick movies I saw, PITCH BLACK [2000] and CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK [2004]. Aside from that, not too familiar with anything else. But I have to admit that this guy versus a bunch of witches was pretty appealing. The trailers made it out to be, not great, but at least entertaining. I was in the mood to see something mindless, so I decided on this one.

Starring: Vin Diesel (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE [2017], THE PACIFIER [2005], SAVING PRIVATE RYAN [1998], and upcoming films GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017] and a possible new Riddick movie FURIA, due out… who knows when), Rose Leslie (MORGAN [2016] and TV shows DOWNTON ABBEY and GAME OF THRONES), Elijah Wood (9 [2009], HAPPY FEET [2006], and TV show WILFRED), and Michael Caine (GOING IN STYLE [2017], NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], and KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE [2015]).

Directed by: Breck Eisner (THE CRAZIES [2010], SAHARA [2005], and 2 episodes of TV show THE EXPANSE). Co-written by: Cory Goodman (UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS [2016] and PRIEST [2011]), and Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (GODS OF EGYPT [2016], DRACULA UNTOLD [2014], and the upcoming TV show LOST IN SPACE). Composed by: Steve Jablonsky (KEANU [2016], ENDER’S GAME [2013], THE AMITYVILLE HORROR [2005], and the upcoming TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017]). Cinematography by: Dean Semler (THE DO-OVER [2016], PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 [2015], and MALEFICENT [2014]).

Story on top (SPOILERS), review on the bottom.

(STORY)

The story follows Kaulder (Vin Diesel), whom used to be an honorable warrior some 800 years ago and a loving husband and father to his daughter. But a malicious witch queen (Julie Engelbrecht) led to their deaths and now joins a band of warriors with similar losses to hunt down the queen and kill her for her crimes. They find her hideout and kill her horde of witches before Kaulder finds the queen herself. Just as he is about to kill her however, the queen transfers her immortality to him to live life forever with his losses. Fast forward to the present day, Kaulder has become the most effective hunter of witches, working with an organization of secret, peacekeeping witches who have long ago agreed to never use their magic against humanity, and a few priests tasked with aiding Kaulder whenever they were needed, particularly a long time friend of Kaulder’s, Dolan the 36th (Michael Caine). However, the man is old and ready to retire. A successor has been appointed: Dolan the 37th (Elijah Wood). However, things begin to go south when Kaulder is informed that 36 has passed away. Kaulder finds this odd as the man just happens to die that very day, seemingly through natural causes. He wants help to prove that this wasn’t the work of foul play. Lo and behold, it is, and a witch attempts to kill Kaulder and 37, unsuccessful. Believing that the one responsible for 36’s demise is from his past, Kaulder seeks out the help a witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie), owner of a bar, who has the power to take him deep into his memories and possibly find answers to what is going on. However, the memory is interrupted when the bad witch comes back to attack him. He’s fought off well enough, but since the scuffle destroyed Chloe’s bar, she wants nothing to do with Kaulder anymore. Of course, the bad witch has other ideas, following her back to her home and attacks her. Kaulder, of course, saves her and keeps her safe with 37. Soon, Kaulder discovers a nifty little secret about Chloe. She’s a special kind of witch called a dream walker. Normally, in order to back into Kaulder’s memories, certain ingredients and items are needed. Dream walkers don’t need those things at all and can do it naturally… a detail about herself that she has been trying to hide from. With her help, they discover that the witch queen didn’t really die. When Kaulder temporarily died and came back, he was not aware that the witch also kept herself alive by connecting their life-forces together. In short, if they stabbed her heart and permanently killed her, Kaulder would die as well. Double twist, the man who decided that Kaulder is too valuable to let die is none other than a Dolan, passing this secret down through the generations. Well, shit happens and the heart of the witch queen is discovered by the enemy and taken for resurrection. Knowing where to go thanks to Chloe, whom he tells to stay behind, he arms himself to the teeth and goes hunting. Unfortunately, he is too late and the queen returns, taking back the immortality that she gave him… now if Kaulder gets hurt, he won’t heal, and may indeed die. However, his skills are still unchanged and manages to survive his fight as the queen sets out to destroy humanity via a second black plague. Kaulder discovers that she is going to do this by going to the one single solitary witch prison where he’s sent every witch he’s captured over the last 800 years, needing their powers to unleash the plague. With the help of both Chloe and 37, they set out to fight the queen in her lair. Managing to find a weakness against the queen’s spell, Chloe stays behind to figure out stuff and forces 37 to stay and protect her. Kaulder finds the queen and they fight again, but as soon as he’s about to kill the queen, 37 comes around with a gun up to Chloe… revealing that he’s actually a witch himself (albeit born without magic abilities), lied about his history when he first met Kaulder, and swears his allegiance to the queen… who thanks him by killing him. One more fight, Kaulder wins, the queen transfers her immortality back to him, and is convinced by Chloe that Kaulder can use this immortal curse for good purposes. The end.

(REVIEW)

Seriously, there’s a couple WIZARD OF OZ jokes I want to make for this film.

Yeah, I got exactly what I was looking for. Stupid, mindless fun with a flaming sword-wielding bearded-Diesel… which was probably the greatest cinematic gift since Angelina Jolie making out with Elizabeth Mitchell.

By the way, bearded sword-wielding Diesel is basically the entire first ten minutes. You wouldn’t really tell it’s him were it not for the camera constantly face-humping him. As soon as the action kicks in though, it’s a shame you don’t see enough of bearded-Diesel kick ass. You don’t put a sword-wielding bearded-Diesel in a movie if you’re not going to have him kicked a **** ton of ass. It’s criminal, I say! Gotta say though, I’m not sure if the movie is better for it by him maintaining his traditional clean-shaven bald head look, or if it would be epic to see him sporting the beard and long hair for ninety minutes.

I am only mildly familiar with Leslie’s work on the TV show GAME OF THRONES, but I enjoyed the prospect of seeing her in a movie like this. I thought she was a solid actress in the show, despite only seeing, like, two episodes of her in it. I’m glad her popularity escalated her onto the big screen and hope to see her in future projects. Her work on here as the character Chloe is passable. Chloe is basically a sugar-coated damsel in distress. She always needs saving, but she at least puts up a fight. I honestly don’t remember her actually getting into a scuffle and coming out on top. Not that it’s not understandable, the forces she’s facing are the most dangerous of the dangerous, but still… always a shame to see a character written in like this in 2015. Her backstory feels a bit forced with no build-up, all in the service of making her more sympathetic. From a scriptual stand-point, it was unnecessary, but Leslie’s performance at least made it seem relevant, so I tolerate it. Thankfully, she does get development and does contribute to the action later on, so she’s not the worst written side-character.

The nominee for that role kind goes to Wood’s character, Dolan. He’s built-up to be a little like Batman’s Robin. He’s got a bad-ass side to him, and Wood isn’t… entirely type-cast as a nerd. Okay, he has a line early on in his role where he says, “it has ever been my dream to work at your side” or some such crap like that, and I’m just like, “Really, Elijah? You accepted the reality in which you must say this line? Please tell me you put up some sort of fight with the writer.” I don’t know, but unlike Chloe, the further into the story we get, the lamer his character becomes. In fact, it almost gets to the point where the writers are like, “Oops, we wrote Elijah Wood into the movie, right? We should probably remind the audience that he exists. Let’s write a Shyamalan twist for him and get him back in the action.” It’s… so silly and ONLY GETS WORSE!!! Dear god, his character at the end is so laughably written, I didn’t know whether or be angry or cry laughing.

I would also like to point out how easy it would have been to have Kaulder have a romantic sub-plot with Chloe, but I am eternally thankful that the movie didn’t need to subjugate itself to that action-movie cliche with a Disney-like build-up to a needless sex scene, especially since Leslie has done nude work in GAME OF THRONES. I give the movie props for not going that route.

While I am all for Caine being in… ANYTHING, I have to say that he was criminally under-used in this movie. I mean, Dolan 36’s relationship with Kaulder is well defined through Diesel’s performance, showing that there was history between the two characters, but all Caine really does in the movie is sleep. A “plot device” I think the university kids call it. I mean, fine, we see the stakes involved because Kaulder is all business (or at least, I don’t remember him getting too distracted with pointless shit), so this could have been handled FAR worse, but… man, THIS is what you hire THE Michael Caine for? To sleep? For shame, movie. For shame. I mean, I’m not sure if this truly is a brownie-point loss, but… it’s THE Michael Caine! *le sigh*

This movie does love it’s mystic-babble, so I was able to get engrossed in it alright without feeling too lost. The plot makes sense for the most part, it’s really just specific characters and how they’re handled that bring the movie down from being more than just “decent,” and just an excuse to put Diesel’s name out there that isn’t stamped on FAST & FURIOUS or RIDDICK (although Riddick is my preference to see his name on). I won’t complain too much, as this movie was pretty entertaining.

If you’re in the mood for mindless fantasy-action in the same vein as Keanu Reeves’ CONSTANTINE, or Aaron Eckhart’s I, FRANKENSTEIN, this movie might be up your alley.

A weak 3/5 as a whole, 4/5 for entertainment value.

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