Director Tommy Wirkola’s (the guy who gave us “Dead Snow“) “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” had the kind of trailer that gave me the impression that it would be something out of “The Brothers Grimm” (with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) and “Van Helsing” (with Hugh Jackman) playbook with some “Blade-esque“ touches to spare. Well, the film may be all those things, and maybe a little more different than what I expected. To cut through the chase, I will not go as far as to say that “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters“ is a good movie, but I would be lying if I didn‘t say that I had a ball watching it. It is the kind of movie that is exaggerated in tone, definitely over-the-top and not the kind of movie to be taken seriously.
Abandoned by their father and lost in the woods 15 years ago, Hansel (Jeremy Renner, Bourne Legacy) and Gretel (Gemma Atherton, Prince of Persia, Clash of the Titans) defeated the wicked witch who had a gingerbread house who also wanted to eat them. The experience had taught them to become battle-hardened bounty hunters whose prey are witches. The two siblings have become hell-bent on revenge and with their fierce determination, they intend to rid their homeland of every living witch that may be lurking in the shadows. Now, on the eve of the notorious Blood Moon, the two must face the threat of Grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) and learn something different about witchcraft.
Let’s be honest here. One wouldn’t be going in to see this film expecting something more than one may call to be popcorn junk. It is the kind of movie that is intentionally exaggerated, and one can say that it is the kind of movie that can be ‘critic proof’ since really, the story definitely isn’t the film’s central focus. Looking for something that wasn't supposed to be there, would be going against to what the film was intended. The film moves quickly, it goes to show how fast and fierce the action sequences are, how the clever gags get delivered with a straight face, and just how awesome the blood splatter and gore got whenever witches go ‘boom’ so that the details of its plot would never reach the brain.
The film’s screenplay is your usual standard good vs. evil wrapped around a revenge and destiny mumbo jumbo, but it does try to add some twists in order to develop its story. The core of the plot is Hansel and Gretel, and along the way they stumble on a case of missing children and rescue a helpless maiden. The film plays it loose and keeps things ridiculous and silly all to present its own brand of charm. Yes, the plot is predictable, but really I was here to see a lot of blood splatter effects, gore and outrageousness since the director was the one who gave us that silly (yet fun) Norwegian horror-comedy “Dead Snow”. I loved the way the film played on modern conventions such as the ‘face of the milk carton’, the taser and gatling guns. It also gave a nod to a certain ancient book, and I liked the way the weaponry used by our two protagonists had that pseudo-steam punk look that just gave their job a sense of outrageousness. No, you are not here to wonder how they can make and get those many weapons on the job, you are here to enjoy the blood and action as witches go splatter.
The film is driven by one action scene after another, and as a result, the film is brisk and energetic in its pacing. The film focused on the use of the weapons and some hand to hand combat, as witches attacked with a wooden flying stick or tree branch (to poke fun at the broom) and wave their wands ala-”Harry Potter”. The special effects were good but mimicked that look of a B-movie to further its bid to look outlandish. CGI-blood and practical effects were used together to give it the feel of a comic book. The make up effects were good albeit uneven at some areas, and the costumes had that anime steam punk look about them (actually the twin witches looked like something ripped from anime). If you really think about it, the film seemed inspired by the Grimm Fairy Tales comic book horror stories. Please note: The original Hansel and Gretel story was grim, dark and twisted in its own way.
Now let’s talk about the acting. Renner and Atherton aren’t exactly here to display their acting chops but rather they are here to do some cool posturing and exhibit some bad ass attitude. It works, the two are believable as siblings as they take no shit for what they do. Peter Stormare was amusing as Sheriff Berringer, as he was the one who drove some of the film’s gags. He is a good character actor and he really did as good a job as he did in “The Last Stand”. Mina (Pihla Viitala) is the damsel in distress and she (namely her one scene) may be one of the reasons why this film was R-rated. Famke Janssen was a good baddie, but not as bad as I wanted her to be. But hey, think of this film as an adventure-fantasy only wrapped around a horror backdrop.
I guess if one really to nit-pick, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” can be seen as sort of a video game. It played it fast and loose, and allows the action to drive its story much like a hack-slash -shoot platform game. It is the kind of movie that you see because you like action and things (and bloody heads) that go boom. But hey, it is easy to like this two siblings as they joke, charm, fight and kill witches with an attitude. If you are looking for something that expands on the 'fairy tale' of Hansel and Gretel, then you would be better off watching something else. You saw the trailer, did it give the impression that it was supposed to be so? It did not. It’s the kind of movie that would do well being watched by a party of friends. No, it isn’t a great movie, but sure worth to pass the time because of its immense entertainment value. It is a hoot to watch that it gets a Timid Recommendation from me if you are a horror fan, and a good Rental for everyone else. [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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