‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’ is a a fast-paced, sanguinary, but largely predictable, sequel to the reimagined classic Grimm’s fairy tale.
In this update to their well-known childhood experience, the adult gun-toting Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and arrow-sporting Gretel (Gemma Arterton), both clad in weaponry and leather throughout the film, commit all nature of violent crimes against witches who cross their path. The bounty hunting pair are hired by a small European village mayor in order to stop the eleven recent child abductions (anachronistically seen by the audience as sketches of the children that are tied to milk bottles) that were all, presumably, committed by these conjurers. Continuously motivated by their need for revenge against all witches, Hansel and Gretel eventually become privy to the dark spellbinders’ secret plan. As such, much 3D mayhem ensues in gory stop-motion detail so that every drop of blood, each crushed skull, and all limb removals can be fully taken in by the viewer. At times, the action comes off as Quentin Tarantino-lite.
Neither Renner or Arterton is allowed by director Tommy Wirkola to develop much from these characters. Although constantly in peril, one feels little deep connection to the pair other than the assumed knowledge that they will prevail. (In a fun piece of exposition, though, Hansel and Gretel’s fanboy brings them a scrapbook of ‘articles’ about the couple’s repeated violent past victories against witches). What does make the film more tolerable, though, is its non-stop pacing. In a quick 88-minutes, battle-after-battle is played out as the couple ensnare the supernatural women using their ‘inventions:’ a metal record that is able to mimic a child’s call for help, a defibrillator-of-sorts to shock their prey, and even a machine-gun like destroyer of these she-demons. The movie sibs attempt to play their roles fairly tongue-in-cheek, but few one-liners rise above mild chuckles.
If it were not for the choice to enhance the definitely R-rated violence of this fairy tale redux in all the skull-crushing spectacle that can be had in 3D, the plot superficiality and non-stop action could have very much satisfied the PG-13 crowd. (Some recent reports further indicate that two versions of the film had been made to assess how much violence the film would, ultimately, include). ‘Hansel and Gretel’ does use its eye-popping 3D amazingly well but, unfortunately, only technology is able to give this story any real depth.
In all, the the film is a quick-paced, fairly violent, bounty hunter story with very mild attempts at humor and romantic engagement. ‘Hansel and Gretel’ may be part of the recipe for a fun night out, but it is unable to satisfy the craving for good entertainment by itself.
‘Hansel and Gretel’ opens today in theaters across the country, including San Antonio. It is rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity, and language.
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