Sunday, January 16, 2011

Season Of The Witch

Year: 2011
Director: Dominic Sena
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Christopher Lee

Nicolas Cage has had a colourful career, with as many good films as there are bad ones. He was brilliant in Face/Off, Con Air and 8MM, but there also have been major stinkers in his resume like The Wicker Man, Next and Bangkok Dangerous. Then there are also the middle ground films like Ghost Rider, Windtalkers and Knowing.

It's safe to say that Cage has tried all kinds of roles. But this time, as a 14th century knight? How does that turn out?

Season Of The Witch begins in the 13th century, with the execution of three women believed to be witches by the church. As a priest reads an incantation from his book, one of the corpses attacks and kills him.

A century later, we are introduced to two men, Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman), knights who are part of the Crusade. After years of warfare, they grow tired of the killing, especially when innocent women and children end up on the receiving end. Behmen and Felson desert the army and return home to England, where they discover that a pestilence known as The Black Plague has fallen upon the land, causing thousands to die.

The local cardinal (Christopher Lee) believes that the plague was caused by a witch, and wishes to send her to another town to be executed. Behmen and Felson are revealed as deserters and sentenced to prison unless they agree to escort the witch there. Behmen agrees reluctantly, on the condition that she is given a fair trial after they send her.

So the two men gather the witch (Claire Foy) and bring along four other men; Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore), a priest who believes the witch is guilty, Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), a knight who lost his family to the plague, Hagamar (Stephen Graham), a con man who knows the way to the town and Kay (Robert Sheehan), an aspiring knight. The journey is wrought with one disaster after another, and one by one the men fall as Behmen begins to question the witch's guilt or innocence.

Dominic Sena, who directed Cage in Gone In 60 Seconds, takes the helm here. Sena's work has been rather inconsistent, like he was good in making Kalifornia and Swordfish, but didn't do so well with Whiteout. Overall, I wouldn't say that Season Of The Witch is a return to form for either Sena or Cage, but it's actually better than I expected. Considering the fact that the release date was pushed back, and landing in January (which most critics would call the dumping ground for bad films), you'd think it would suck. But guess what? It doesn't.

Cage is actually slightly more than decent here, even if he forgoes an English accent to play Behmen. Ron Perlman also ditched the accent in his role as Felson, and to their credit, Behmen and Felson's camaraderie successfully glue the film together. Cage and Perlman definitely have good chemistry here, and they ought to work together again someday. Special mention must also be made for Claire Foy, who plays the witch. On the surface, she seems innocent enough, but a slight smile or glint in her eye, and she can suddenly turn completely around and seem so evil. Foy is perfect for the role.

Basically, the film is like an episode of Supernatural combined with an LOTR like journey set in medieval times. The action sequences are decent and the horror elements are well shot, although there's a bit of bad CGI at the end, but I'm not complaining. Overall it's not one of Cage's best work, but it's fun for what it is.

Verdict: good enough to watch if nothing else is showing, and if you like action combined with horror, this is for you. (3.5/5)

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