From a guy whose back catalogue is chock-a-block with the likes of action-centric Riddick and xXx, The Last Witch Hunter is relatively familiar ground for Vin Diesel. Although it says very little for his latest work, his usual soulless glare – along with an admittedly impressive-looking blazing sword – makes him the most bearable aspect of Crazies director Breck Eisner’s intolerably wooden fantasy-action stinker.
Written by two of the guys (Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless) who penned 2014’s critically bashed Dracula Untold, Eisner’s magic-laced flick which also co-stars Michael Caine and Elijah Wood, falls flat on its clunky, face-palming arse.
Kaulder (Vin Diesel) – a playboy witch hunter given immortality 800 years previously after a fight-to-the-death battle with the CGIed-to-shit Witch Queen (newcomer Julie Engelbrecht) – has been putting misbehaving witches to rights for centuries.
There’s no Hogwarts, Quidditch or Hermione Granger, just gothic-looking, pouty teenagers coming close to causing mid-air catastrophes because modern day magical peeps just aren’t aware of the powers they hold. The self-governed witch population have a relatively successful pact with mudbloods; they’re left to their own devises as long as they don’t perform any magic on humans – yet as if out of the Voldermort manuscripts, there’s resistance in the form of dark magic.
Supported by Michael Caine’s priestly Dolan 36th and his annoyingly eager successor Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood), the war-hardened Kaulder is thrust into a new battle as a soon-to-be revitalised Witch Queen and her Hagrid-esque minion, Belial (A Walk Amongst the Tombstones‘ Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), look to drag the world back into the dark ages.
“800 years I’ve been of this world… Always hunting” declared a pensive Vin Diesel; from long bearded warrior to clean shaven new age lethario, the benefits of immortality have not made the Fast & Furious star any cheerier.
Vehemently unscary and categorically ploddy, its nails-on-a-chalk-board dialogue makes the similarly awful fantasy flop Seventh Son sound positively Shakespearian. There’s nothing magical about the Sahara helmer’s latest work; Michael Caine does his usual plot-explaining act in another underwhelming narrative slot, whilst Frodo Baggins himself (aka Wood) produces the most emotionally devoid, dead-between-the-eyes yes man act imaginable as cleric Dolan 37th.
Shouting, staring and creepily seducing a young child with magical gummy bears as the hilariously wooden Belial, Olafsson’s villainous awfulness co-exists nicely with the Queen Witch – a computer-generated lump of dirty string – who is the pièce-de-résistance of an excruciatingly anti-climatic finale.
If every word spouted didn’t want to make you puke in disgust – and that every time you looked in dear ol’ Michael Caine’s eyes you saw dollar bills – you’d be forgiven for thinking maybe, just maybe there’s a half-acceptable movie hiding in Eisner’s The Last Witch Hunter somewhere. Interesting-ish ideas of immortality and the morality of the witch population exist but are all too quickly thrown aside for unspectacular action sequences, while Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie tries in vain to add a little sparkle as Vin Diesel’s predictably changeable love interest. Alas, this fantasy tale dies a slow, painful death that not even 800 years could fix.