This review originally appeared on Cinedelphia.com
The Last Witch Hunter should have been called Vin Diesel: Franchise Hunter. Even if it was, I would have been fine with that— that is, if the flick was any good. Unfortunately, Diesel’s latest outing, despite his best efforts to chew up scenery, falls way short of being even an acceptable film to sit through.
Diesel stars as Kaulder, a scorned witch hunter in medieval times who, upon dispatching of a particularly powerful witch, was cursed with immortality. Fast forward to today— Kaulder is still hunting witches, now enjoying the fruits of his 800-year labor and supported by a secret alliance of priests called Dolans, which seems to be a fancy term for “witch hunter’s butler”. Trust me, it wouldn’t have been out of tone to call them that since there were plot elements introduced like a “slayer sword” and “witch prison”. Seriously, who wrote this-- a bunch of 5th graders sitting around a cafeteria table during recess??? Anyway, when something happens to the current Dolan (Michael Caine… why are you in this movie?!?!), Kaulder and his new witch hunter butler (Elijah Wood, who at least seems to be having fun here) investigate the case with the help of Chloe (Rose Leslie, doing an impression of Emma Stone with a British accent), a good witch who does not know her own power.
So let’s break this down: A witch, who perceives that Kaulder wishes for death, curses him with immortality. But in doing so, she’s granted him carte blanche to kill off witches for the remainder of time? On top of that, Diesel’s character seems to genuinely enjoy life in the modern era, bedding beautiful women and living like a king, his priest butlers there to care for him and pay for his expensive-looking peacoats. So, you could argue that Kaulder is pretty much crushing it as an immortal. Thanks evil witch!
More so than the plot contrivances, The Last Witch Hunter is plain painful to sit through. Throughout his career, Vin Diesel has gotten good at delivering one-liners and mean mugging at a green screen. He’s still in “top-form” here, playing Kaulder as a cool cat with 800 years of experience and a head full of nostalgia. But if I want to see the story of a man haunted by his past and getting high off of his memories, I’ll watch Inception.
But we’re talking about a Vin Diesel flick here, so the action has got to be good, right? Nope; the action sequences were few and far between, and when they did happen, it was often so sloppily filmed that I was unsure exactly what was happening at certain points. This can be said of the whole film; by the time the overlong denouement kicked in, I asked myself, “what is even going on right now?”. But at least I got to watch Vin Diesel fight CG witches with a flaming sword in a Banana Republic long-sleeve T. No seriously. That’s his garb for the climactic showdown. While I bet the filmmakers thought this was tongue-in-cheek, it was such a departure from the self-serious beats that it was impossible to enjoy the comedy.
Diesel is ultimately still a movie star, but he is unable to save The Last Witch Hunter from wild shifts in tone, a lack of action, and a sorry limp to the end credits. A new franchise this is not. God, I hope not.