The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

Genres - Action, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Fantasy Adventure  |   Release Date - Oct 23, 2015 (USA)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - Canada , China , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Tim Holland

"How do you know when there is magic in the vicinity?" a baby-faced priest (Elijah Wood) asks Vin Diesel's witch hunter early on in this would-be supernatural thriller, as the two search an apartment for signs of sorcery. Seeing none, the priest says, "No magic here." One assumes he's referring to the lack of witchcraft evidence found in the room, but he could just as easily be expressing his thoughts about the insipid movie he's stuck in.

Diesel stars as Kaulder, a valiant 14th-century warrior who is cursed with immortality by the Witch Queen (a maggot-encrusted Julie Engelbrecht) just before he slays her in a cryptic underground lair. Kaulder intended to perish with the merciless queen so he could be reunited in the afterlife with his late wife and daughter, who died from the Black Plague that the queen unleashed upon Europe. Now, he's condemned to be forever separated from his loved ones and dwell in eternal loneliness. What to do? Become the Catholic Church's go-to guy to track down the world's most wicked witches and put them under lock and key in the "witch prison," of course.

Jettison ahead to present-day New York City, where Kaulder lives in an ultra-plush apartment with a killer view of Central Park, drives a newly minted Aston Martin, collects a horde of deadly weaponry, and beds the occasional stewardess. Kaulder receives his witch-hunting assignments from his longtime mentor Dolan the 36th (an always welcome Michael Caine), the latest in a succession of priests charged with aiding Kaulder with his missions. Unfortunately, an ancient Nordic warlock named Belial (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) murders Dolan, plots to resurrect the Witch Queen and unleash a new global pandemic. Kaulder teams up with Dolan the 37th, the aforementioned baby-faced priest, and Chloe (Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie), a sexy white witch, to combat Belial. Naturally, the fate of the world depends on them.

A movie titled The Last Witch Hunter should provide plenty of thrills and chills, and raise the level of a viewer's pulse, but instead the Breck Eisner-directed film continually flatlines with uninspired overdoses of CGI mayhem and convoluted witchy mumbo jumbo that come at us so fast and furious they create fatigue instead of intrigue. It doesn't help that Diesel delivers his usual one-note, guttural performance without a trace of humor, and on the whole is given very little to do, other than look gravely concerned and lethargically react to all of the weird stuff happening around him. The fact that Kaulder can't be killed and that any injuries he suffers heal almost instantly also sap the story of energy. It's a dull superhero who doesn't have a weakness. Fortunately, Caine, excellent as always, lends the tale a necessary touch of believability, while Leslie enlivens every scene she's in with a heartfelt and often comic sensibility that lifts the film occasionally out of its doldrums. But not even she can work enough magic to prevent the movie from casting a spell of absolute boredom over its audience.

The Last Witch Hunter is Vin Diesel's attempt to launch a new action franchise and it just might work. Teen boys and Diesel diehards will flock to the film, but repeat visits will likely be few. Here's hoping The Last Witch Hunter lives up to its name and is indeed the last we see of Diesel's dreary hag hunter.