"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" -- movie review
Release date: Jan. 25, 2013
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Written by: Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper
Three years ago, Jeremy Renner was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as a solider whose sole job is to keep bombs from exploding during the Iraq war in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”. Since then, his career has exploded, literally. He has become one of the go-to guys for action franchises, picking up yet another Oscar nom for “The Town” along the way. Two years ago he starred with Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”. Last year he played Hawkeye in “Marvel’s the Avengers” and starred in “The Bourne Legacy”. Heck Jason Bourne wasn’t even in “The Bourne Legacy” – but Jeremy Renner was. He’s everywhere.
Here comes “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”. Yes that "Hansel and Gretel", the poor kids from the Grimm's Fairy Tales, who were abandoned by dear old mum and dad, found a gingerbread house and well, you know the rest. Only this isn't the fairy tale you grew up with. In "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" Renner plays Hansel while the gorgeous Gemma Arterton ("Quantum of Solace", "Clash of the Titans") is Gretel. The film picks up many years after the beloved fairy tale events. Hansel and Gretel have become famous witch hunters, trolling the land for bounties, killing witches with extreme prejudice and excessive, bloody violence.
So, after a quick recap of their exploits over the opening credits, we are introduced to a small village that is seeing its child population dwindle. Naturally, the townsfolk suspect witchery and are ready to condemn and execute Mina (Pihla Viitala), a seemingly innocent villager, until Hansel and Gretel intervene to explain there are very simple ways to tell if someone is a witch i.e. they are usually ugly as hell, which Mina isn't. The town's mayor has called the bounty hunters in to help find the missing children, much to the dismay of the sheriff (Peter Stormare).
Hansel and Gretel have their work cut out for them. An evil grand witch, Muriel (Famke Janssen), is collecting children in order to perform a ritual by the light of the blood moon which will give all witches a protection against fire. Mind you, there are many, many ways to kill a witch but fire seems to be the best and most effective way. The blood moon ritual thing will definitely help the witches with the burning thing, so that's their play against the brother and sister duo. Of course they need one of them to complete the ritual, for reasons that are best left to be discovered within the story. Not that it is a big secret. Everything that happens is predictable and telegraphed way ahead of time.
Directed by Nordic director Tommy Wirkola, "Hansel and Gretel" is a hyper-kinetic, over the top, foul mouthed, bloody flick. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The problem is that it feels like the studio knew they had a flop on their hand, so instead of aiming it at kids, who should have been the intended targets, they just threw a bunch of f-bombs and exploding heads in the hopes of landing at least one big weekend, aided by the 3D gimmick. Speaking of which, the 3D isn't bad. It's never overwhelming but it never feels validated. At least it's not blurry.
Back to Renner, who once again feels like he's playing the exact same character he's played in every other movie he's been in. Once again, he handles the physical action nicely, but otherwise, the script gives him nothing else to work with. With a running time of just under 90 minutes the movie is in full-throttle mode just about the whole time, never really taking any time whatsoever to make any sense of anything thing that is going on. Wirkola and co-writer Dante Harper throw a lot at the audience, some of which is fun but a lot of which is eye roll inducing.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" is a completely off the wall and ludicrous movie that revels in the fact that is ultra violent and bloody. There may be some fun to be had if you completely turn of your brain and don't think about the logistics of anything that goes on. But there is a reason this flick is hitting theatres in January and not the summer, where you'd normally expect to see something like this and that's because it's just not that good of a movie. There is however, an important lesson to be learned -- and that is to never eat candy of a strange cabin in the middle of a dark forest that may or may not belong to an evil witch because you might get diabetes.
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