Over the last couple of decades, through a sheer force of will that belays his mortal existence, Vin Diesel seems to be collecting franchises the way creepy, boring people collect those plates with pictures on them. The never-ending, car flipping Fast & Furious series is an obvious given, as is his multiple, vocal appearances as Groot, but somehow he’s squeezed two Riddick sequels, a video game and an anime movie out the little gem that was Pitch Black and let’s not forget that he somehow managed to resuscitate life back into the XXX franchise like a bald, gravel voiced Dr Frankenstein. Now, while we probably should be thankful to the cruel, capricious gods of cinema for the fact he hasn’t yet tried to siphon further movies from The Pacifier or his character from Saving Private Ryan – that hasn’t stopped him from unleashing a new character on us.
The plot? Witches are alive and only a fragile truce stops…. Um… Y’know what, there’s a far quicker way to sum this movie up – you ready?
You’ve seen Blade, right? How’s about Constantine? Highlander? Well that’s the plot. Those 3 films right there. In a blender. Vin lives forever, kills supernatural foes, complicated conspiracy. Done.
Oh, ok then, here’s more detail. 800 years ago (and change) Kaulder managed to slay the Witch Queen, an evil being who tried to eliminate mankind and killed his family with a deadly plague. However, his suicide mission came with an ironic side effect because as the Queen died, she managed to curse him with immortality so that he may never know the sweet rest of death. Before anyone can question why on earth someone would make their most hated enemy a living demigod, we bounce over to the modern day where Kaulder has renounced his sweet, Viking death-metal look for something more bald and has become the ultimate weapon in keeping witches in line who want to break the fragile truce that shakily holds in place.
Although suffering from male pattern baldness while being immortal must be tough, what’s far tougher is that a conspiracy is in place to bring back the Witch Queen and wage war on the humans but there’s a link between the Witch Hunter and his nemesis that even he couldn’t imagine…
While admittedly making plot summarising a doddle; cramming all these movies together into a single, muddled whole unfortunately does nothing for the overall quality of the thing with The Last Witch Hunter not even coming close to matching the varying qualities of the movies it’s shamelessly plundering from, despite boasting such fairly slick visuals.
However, as 2015 was still the era of the all-conquering 12A certificate, I’m assuming the movie was furiously edited to appeal to teens suffering from ADD, while about 85% of the dialogue is nothing but pure, solid exposition. It’s like watching a 100 minute cut scene from a video game… that you can’t skip. Actually, that analogy fits pretty well when talking about the action too and as the rating forbids any bloody form of Blade m-style punch n’ crunch, all the scenes of our main actor, Vin Diesel-ing through the enemy are seriously lacking any threat. All of the villains, be it euro-bearded henchman, a giant, impressive looking bone monster or grotty witch-queen are all dispatched in fairly short order and everything has that frustrating video game feel of being a small child while watching an older, cooler kide play a beat-em-up on the easy setting.
It’s not all bad, however; in spite of myself, I’ve always gotten a perverse kind of pleasure picking holes in this kind of dark fantasy shite. Like, for all the mysterious and exotic names and terms someone has obviously taken time to concoct for this film, simply naming the holding cells for evil doers “Witch-Prison” had me giggling for a while imagining some sort of bizarre vaudville act:
“Let’s go to Witch Prison.”
“No Witch Prison!”
“I don’t know! That’s what I’m asking you!”
But unfortunately for everyone, this never happens. Your loss, movie…
Oh, and another thing, Vin isn’t so much the last witch hunter as the ONLY witch hunter, so if the film’s TITLE can’t even be accurate, what chance has the rest of the film got?!
Childish nitpicking aside, the visuals of this film are actually magnificent, to the point that every other shot in this flick could lay legitimate claim to being the most badass death metal album cover ever made. The creatures are pretty nifty too with the Witch-Queen in particular (good name for a band, that) looking pretty spectacular, like an Evil Dead Deadite covered in vines and rocking a rather fetching spinal column pony-tail.
Vin is essentially Vin in this movie, although curiously every now and then he seems to break with the grumpy and chill out a bit, reminding us that Mr. Diesel does actually have charisma to spare (He Is Groot, remember), maybe if he’d played the role a bit more fun and less of a standard, know-it-all tough guy, he may of actually had something here that could have transcended the samey material. The supporting actors are of shockingly pretty high stock too, although both Elijah Wood and Michael Caine spend most of their screen time looking bemused (you also can’t help noticing that Caine, worryingly spends most of his role sitting or lying down while looking tired as shit so the fact that he’s phoning this in it totally understandable) so it’s down to former Game Of Throner Rose Leslie to breath some genuine life into proceedings.
So while The Not-Technically-Last Witch Hunter isn’t exactly David Lean material, on it’s own terms it is a dumb kickabout diversion, best enjoyed with lashings of beer and/or pizza (although while watching it, I was genuinely unsure if I was too drunk or not drunk enough for the maximum effect).
Since the movie’s release date (five years and counting at time of writing) there’s been predictably no further word if Kaulder will get another outing – although if he does they should subtitle it Crazy, Witch Abrasions (that’s MY copyright Vin and if you want it, you’re going to have to bring your checkbook) – but maybe 2020’s upcoming comic book actioner, Bloodshot will give the rumbly actor the next franchise he desperately wants.
If not, I guess Vin is going to have to look elsewhere.
Saving Private Ryan Origins: Private Caparzo it is, then.