Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Year: 2013
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann

Plot: After killing the witch that tried to eat them, siblings Hansel and Gretel grow up to become witch hunters for hire. Their latest mission pits them against Muriel, a powerful witch who has connections to their past.

Review: Everyone knows the story of Hansel & Gretel, right? Tommy Wirkola, a Norwegian director and writer, gives us a story of what it would be like if the siblings became ass kicking witch hunters when they grow up. It's a fascinating premise indeed, but Wirkola's execution of it isn't that promising.

If you're the type of person who enjoyed Van Helsing or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then this film would be right up your alley, but in all honesty, those two films are better than this. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters takes the popular over-the-top approach, filled with cheesy lines, CGI bloody violence and  lots and lots of posing. On the one hand, it's fun but on the other hand, it gets kinda cringeworthy as the film progresses.

It also doesn't help that Wirkola makes the same cardinal mistake most action directors do: filming action sequences up close, thereby making the movements blurry and unclear (Mr Wirkola, please call Zack Snyder and take a class with him). Some parts of his script could also use some polishing, as many cliches keep popping up, like the supporting characters that meet their doom at the most predictable moment, the token dumb character that has to think they're in control until they get killed, the supposedly shocking connection between the heroes and the villain etc. There are also some ridiculous things like the troll who has a thing for Gretel....what the heck was up with that?

Jeremy Renner looks like he just walked off the set of The Avengers and stepped into Hansel's boots, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as he looks the part, but he looks much too uptight here. Gemma Arterton fares slightly better as Gretel, but it's hard to distinguish her performance here from many of her previous roles. Famke Janssen seems to be having the most fun here as the villain Muriel, snarling, cackling and screaming her way throughout the film. I love her witch makeup, when it's on she is barely recognisable. Pihla Viitala provides some momentary eye candy as Hansel's love interest, though her role here is yet another cliche. Same goes for Thomas Mann as their sidekick Ben.

If not for Janssen's performance, lots of gratuitous violence and some cool action set pieces (the climactic scene where the siblings take on a group of witches is awesome), this film would be a failure. As of right now, it's fun but forgettable. (3/5)

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