The Last Witch Hunter is a misfire on all fronts save perhaps for the passion I’m sure Vin Diesel (who also served as executive producer) had. But despite his good intentions, the script is a mess and could’ve used fresh blood. I’m confident this is the type of movie that in year’s time will air on SyFy or USA Network.
The Last Witch Hunter
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy
Lionsgate | PG13 – 106 min. – $39.99 | February 2, 2016
Date Published: 01/31/2016 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE – 2.0/5
Vin Diesel is trying, I’ll give him that much, attempting to branch out with franchises aside from the Fast and the Furious and although Riddick chugs along, thanks to Universal’s attempts to keep him happy and returning to the Fast series, his latest fails to take off. The Last Witch Hunter might have an interesting enough premise, the outcome was anything but interesting and surprisingly enough, was rather bland and at times outright boring.
The story follows a man named Kaulder (VIN DIESEL) who, when the movie opens, is leading a squadron to take out the Queen Witch who had spread a plague on their lands killing thousands including loved ones, in particular, Kaulder’s wife and daughter. In order to kill her, one must destroy her heart, otherwise she has the ability to return. Kaulder does manage to overpower her but before she’s destroyed, she places a curse on him with her own immortality and thus lives with the heartache of his family’s deaths.
Centuries later, 800 to be exact, Kaulder works as a Witch Hunter, going around the world stopping evil forces from disrupting a peaceful accord placed between the magical world and the world of man, a pact that has held relatively strong and enforced by an order known as Axe and Cross made up by priests called Dolans, generations of men who take up the name and assist Kaulder on his missions. His current Dolan (MICHAEL CAINE) is about to retire and the replacement, Dolan 37 (ELIJAH WOOD), tags along and is more or less the audience’s eyes and ears to the underground world of magic, both light and dark.
When Dolan 36 dies on the very day of his retirement, Kaulder suspects and proves it is foul play. Not only was Dolan 36 murdered but he was also tortured for some kind of information. Along with Dolan 37, Kaulder’s investigation takes him to a club patronized only by those with magic where he meets bar owner Chloe (ROSE LESLIE). After the joint clears, thanks to his reputation, he enlists her help to remember his death as deduced by clues left by Dolan 36. She first resists, but eventually helps utilizing special something or other (some kind of herb) and goes back to the day he died but before he can see what happened, a powerful witch named Baltasar Ketola aka Belial, the man who killed Dolan 36. After burning down the club, Belial attacks Chloe at home but luckily Kaulder saves her in the nick of time.
Once again, he requests her help to regain his memories promising to protect her from Belial, to which she (again) reluctantly agrees, though the situation becomes dire when Chloe’s friend is murdered by Belial (she owned the coveted herb). Promising to avenge her friend’s death, Chloe agrees to help Kaulder fully and the pair trapes around NYC hunting down clues and running into a variety of the unsavory magical element.
Meanwhile, Belial is quickly putting his plans into motion: bringing the Queen Witch back to life utilizing something that had to do with Kaulder’s death and cursed immortality centuries earlier, though not entirely sure why it was so important for Belial to deny Kaulder’s knowledge once it’s finally revealed.
The Last Witch Hunter is such a mess of a film from just the darkness to the point where it’s tough to see what the hell is going on, which in turn removes any sense of suspense, to a half-baked, overwrought screenplay by a trio of writers whose career ranged from Priest to Dracula Untold elements from both were certainly present here and in fact, while watching I couldn’t help seeing the resemblances, particularly with Dracula Untold. The screenplay isn’t the only faulty part of this film but it’s the cornerstone and while I can see what the filmmakers were attempting, it just never came together in a cohesive manner.
The performances are also nothing special. Yeah, Vin Diesel never would be someone I’d consider to be a thespian or anything but he always possessed a certain charm which is why his inclusion in the Fast movies injected much needed life into that franchise but here, with a substandard screenplay, a convoluted and unnecessarily complicated plot, and frenetic direction in darkly lit scenes, any charm is wasted and lost in the muck.
Rose Leslie attempts her entry into Hollywood following stints on “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey” and although I think she’s a fine actress, and pretty good in the little known Honeymoon indie thriller, the material does her no service. Same goes for Michael Caine, a veteran actor whose appearance is a cameo marking maybe 10 minutes of screen time, half of which contained any substance; I won’t go as far to say this was merely a paycheck for Caine but this is not exactly a fine performance, though his presence, brief as it was, didn’t hurt.
Directed by Breck Eisner, who helmed The Crazies remake and Sahara, The Last Witch Hunter isn’t a terrible movie per se but at the same time it’s not very well made with a cast that cannot overcome the poorly developed screenplay, frenetic editing and direction. This is a movie certainly Diesel and Summit/Lionsgate wanted to make into the next franchise tent pole but falls utterly flat.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a glossy, semi-reflective and title-embossed slip cover. Inside contains the standard DVD Copy and the redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Audio Commentary – Director Breck Eisner breaks down his approach to making the movie, talks about filming locations, casting and other bits of information.
Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter (30:20; HD) is a making-of featurette with comments by Vin Diesel and other members of the cast and crew talking about what drew them to the film with Diesel mentioning his fandom for Dungeons & Dragons, which this film drew some influence from.
Animated Short Films: The Origins of the Axe and Cross (9:52; HD) provides background on the secret organization that keeps the magic world and world of man in relative peace and harmony.
The Last Witch Hunter Sizzle Reel/Paint It, Black (1:36; HD) is merely footage from the movie set against Ciara’s cover of Paint It Black.
Deleted Scenes (5:42; HD) – There are only two scenes included, neither of which were especially noteworthy nor would’ve made a difference in the film’s quality.
Previews – Sicario, Gods of Egypt, John Wick, Extraction, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
VIDEO – 5.0/5
|Lionsgate unleashes The Last Witch Hunter onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec) and a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture quality is nothing short of exceptional especially considering the majority of the film seems to take place either in the dark or at night. Detail is sharp and colors are bright and in one scene, have a nice little pop. There were no noticeable signs of artifacts or aliasing and all around comes across as a fantastic transfer.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|Not to be outdone, the movie sports the relatively new DTS:X super-duper track which decodes to DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 for older receivers. It’s not really surprising to hear the clarity and crispness of this lossless track showcasing a wide range from general chit-chat (exposition) by the characters to the big action sequences. Ambient noises, as well as the score, come off great through the front and rear channels.|
OVERALL – 3.25/5
|Overall, The Last Witch Hunter is a misfire on all fronts save perhaps for the passion I’m sure Vin Diesel (who also served as executive producer) had. But despite his good intentions, the script is a mess and could’ve used fresh blood. I’m confident this is the type of movie that in year’s time will air on SyFy or USA Network. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate offers excellent video and audio and a respectable amount of bonus material.|