Action Adventure

'The Last Witch Hunter' Film Review: Vin Diesel gets medieval

October 23, 2015Ben MK

He's played a space criminal named Riddick, an outlaw racer named Dominic Toretto, and a Guardian of the Galaxy (and ginormous walking tree) named Groot. Now Vin Diesel is Kaulder, an immortal witch slayer in The Last Witch Hunter, a supernatural fantasy pic that pits the chrome-domed action hero against a coven of evil witches hellbent on destroying humanity.

Directed by Breck Eisner, the film is set in a present-day world where humans and witches co-exist in a tenuous truce. It's been 800 years since Kaulder struck down the Witch Queen (The Strain's Julie Engelbrecht), stopping her plans to wipe out humanity with the black plague. In the process, however, he took on her curse of immortality. And ever since then he's been upholding the peace (as it were) for the Axe and Cross, a secret society of priests tasked with keeping the witch population under control.

Now a group of evil witches are seeking to resurrect their fallen queen mother. And when Kaulder's friend and confidante, a priest with the title of the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine), becomes a casualty in the renewed war between witches and humans, Kaulder must work with his successor, the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood), to hunt down the party responsible. Along the way he finds an unlikely ally in a good witch named Chloe (Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie), and together they set out to prevent both the second coming of the Witch Queen and the demise of all humankind.

Credited to Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (the writers responsible for such fare as Priest and Dracula Untold), The Last Witch Hunter's screenplay isn't the movie's strong suit. Simply put, the plot resembles something that's been hacked (and slashed) together from pieces of films like Blade, Constantine, and even last year's Seventh Son. Of course there's also a touch of Harry Potter thrown in for good measure (you know, because witches).

Otherwise, it's fun to watch the Bruce Wayne/Alfred Pennyworth vibe that Diesel and Caine have going. Still, both actors are overshadowed by Leslie, who has clearly put more effort into her dramatic scenes. Meanwhile, Wood tries in vain to distance himself from his most recognizable role as Frodo Baggins, but his perpetually wide-eyed stare is sure to elicit more than a few chuckles from audience members, whether the effect was intentional or not.

Luckily, The Last Witch Hunter manages to redeem itself in one department, and that's the visual effects. From the Witch Queen herself to the massive Sentinel creature that guards the subterranean entrance to the Witch Prison (yes, that's a thing), the CG does a wonderful job immersing viewers in Kaulder's world of sword-and-sworcery. Does it make for a better movie? Kind of. But like the Witch Queen's shapeshifting minions, it's not one that should be taken at more than face value.

The Last Witch Hunter releases October 23rd, 2015 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 46 Mins.

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