|'Our titular Witch Hunter, Kaulder (Diesel) is 'cursed' to live forever during the prologue. Hardly the meatiest of punishments, but, once you've spent some time with him, it's possible to understand why living can be a difficult thing.'|
The Last Witch Hunter fits into the niche of 'new Vin Diesel properties seeking to be franchises', which includes such non-illustrious entries as Babylon A.D., The Chronicles Of Riddick and xXx. Past performance is no guarantee of future results... except when it is. If there's anyone who walked into The Last Witch Hunter expecting an Action masterpiece then it's time to check your optimism levels.
The questions then, around new Vin Diesel properties are; 'how bad will it be?' and 'will it be entertaining whilst being that bad?' In short, The Last Witch Hunter answers are 'not terrible' and 'not really, no'.
Answers which, sadly, put The Last Witch Hunter into an even more disappointing bracket than if it had just been sanctimoniously awful. Directed by Breck Eisner (whose 2010 take on The Crazies perhaps did give reason for optimism, come to think of it), The Last Witch Hunter's primary problem is a spectacular tin ear for fun.
Our titular Witch Hunter, Kaulder (Diesel) is 'cursed' to live forever during the prologue. Hardly the meatiest of punishments you might think, but, once you've spent some time with him, it's possible to understand why living can be a difficult thing. Written by Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, Kaulder is just spectacularly dull. Given immortal life, what does the man do? Chat up an air hostess with a one-liner that barely makes sense, before sharing a whiskey with Michael Caine and spending the evening tinkering with a pocket watch. He drives an Aston Martin but the only time you see it at any speed is during the closing moments and even that appears to be CGI. It's not that there aren't attempts to make Kaulder lighter-hearted, but he's got no comic foil, any charm Diesel attempts sounds like the bowel movement of a coal mine and the scripted 'jokes' are leaden.
The film is evidence that without a good script you can go no further, because some of the surrounding elements suggest the presence of some nice work, undermined by the words on the page. Eisner shoots the action clearly and sharply and the effects are surprising in their crisp cleanness; this isn't a bargain basement film, masquerading as a potential blockbuster. The casting too has promise about it. Seeing Rose Leslie getting a big screen break would be great, if only that's what this had have been. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson makes for an effective-looking baddie.
But, increasingly, very little that comes out of his and anyone else's mouth makes any sense. The late twist certainly doesn't and the 'witches vs witch hunter to keep the peace' storyline wraps itself in more and more lore knots that no-one cares about. It's both OK and dull, which is arguably the worst combination the Vin Diesel franchise generator roulette wheel could have landed upon.