Film Review: The Last Witch Hunter

The_Last_Witch_Hunter_posterFrances Winston felt that despite other big names like Michael Caine to save it, Vin Diesel was always playing Vin Diesel in this fantasy/horror film

Directed by: Breck Eisner – Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Michael Caine

Apparently, witches live amongst us and go about their day-to-day business, thanks to an agreement that was reached whereby they never use their magic on humans. Ensuring that they adhere to this is Kaulder (Diesel) the Witch Hunter of the title, cursed with immortality by the Witch Queen 800 years ago, whose mission ever since has been to maintain the truce by ensuring any rogue witches get punished. However, the tentative peace is set to be broken as a plague his about to be unleashed on New York, and Kaulder could be both the cause and the cure of it.

This movie is difficult to define. It sits somewhere between fantasy drama, supernatural thriller, and action movie. The problem with that is that you’re not always sure what you’re watching. Equally I found it difficult to gauge who the target audience is. It’s probably too dark and complex for kids, not sexy enough for tweens, and slightly on the safe side and not complex enough for adult fantasy fans.

There have been plenty of films over the years featuring an immortal lead character, and from Dracula to Highlander, the one thing that that character has to convey is world weariness, which is something you don’t really get from Diesel here. At no point do you feel that he is an ancient soul.

Despite two other big names in the cast in the form of Caine and Wood, this is very much his film, and unfortunately he forgets to play anything other than Vin Diesel. Former Downton star Leslie grates as Chloe, a dreamwalker witch, who works alongside Kaulder to defeat the dark magic. She never really seems to fully engage with the role, and she and Diesel have very little chemistry.

This has some good effects and some of the writing is good. The biggest problem here is pacing and timing. The wittiest of lines won’t work if it’s delivered too late, and this unfortunately is often the case. This detracts from the humour, leaving nothing to lift this film.

This is the unfortunate kind of film that had really great promise, but attached a star name and it became a star vehicle, rather than keeping the focus on the story and your target audience. You get the impression Vin wanted everyone to like this, but in trying to please everyone, the plot, effects, and performances all seem to have been diluted. Despite this no doubt his name will get plenty of bums on seats, but if fans are expecting Fast and Furious with broomsticks, they will be sorely disappointed.

I am a big fan of fantasy movies and supernatural tales, and I really wanted to love The Last Witch Hunter, but I left it feeling rather meh. Taking the critic in me out of the equation, and thinking about it as a fan of the genre, my opinion is the same.

However, I can see how, in the right hands, this could have been wildly entertaining. Diesel has already announced a sequel, and hopefully, they will rectify the issues with the next one.

In cinemas now!

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