Vin Diesel trades in his Fast ‘n’ Furious supercharged Dodge Challenger for a sword in a fantasy movie that rips off better movies like John Carpenter’s Vampires, Van Helsing, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, with a little Harry Potter and Highlander thrown in for good measure.
800 years ago, a Viking (?) named Kaulder (Diesel) vanquished the evil Witch Queen (Julie Englebrecht), but not before she cursed him with immortality. We then fast-forward to modern day NYC and find out that magic is alive and well in the world, in accordance with a treaty between witches (men and women) and the Church, so long as “they” keep it a secret. Apparently, witches have become prodigious cooks and botanists. . .who knew? Bad witches are either killed or punished and brought before a witches council by Kaulder, who’s known everywhere as a lethal Witch Hunter.
Hey, living life as a Witch Hunter has it’s perks: he’s rich, bangs stewardess’ for fun, and has an arsenal of anti-magic weapons in his secret Manhattan penthouse vault that he opens with his ring. His current handler and Church adviser priest (they’re called “Dolan’s”) is Father Dolan (Michael Caine), who keeps a diary of Kaulder’s exploits. Ah, but there’s trouble afoot when Father Dolan is put in a spell-coma by Belial (Olafur Darri Olaffson), a rather rotund and evil witch who has plans to bring back the long dead Witch Queen.
Following up on some clues left behind, Kaulder and his new handler, Dolan #37 (Elijah Wood), find out that recalling a memory in Kaulder’s past is vital to the Witch Queen’s return. So Kaulder finds a beautiful, but feisty bar owner witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie) who, quite conveniently to the plot, is also a Dreamwalker (she can enter your mind and walk around your past memories with you). Even though she helps Kaulder out, things go bad and the Witch Queen is resurrected and boy, is she pissed!
But, Kaulder, intrepid sword-wielder and shotgun-toter that he is, is soon engaged in a battle with her deep within the bowels of a church. Looks like the Witch Queen plans on bringing back all her incarcerated witch brethren that Kaulder put there and taking over the world. Bwahahahaha!
Oh sure, there’s the usual fight, and the usual happy ending where our hero kills the baddie, gets the girl, and looks forward to his next adventure, yadda yadda yadda. Interestingly, the late Paul Walker was supposed to play Kaulder, but you already know what happened. In this paint-by-the-number’s, cliche riddled, fan-fiction nonsense, Diesel meanders about like an erstwhile superhero with a weak and boring script that is mostly SPFX driven. All that’s missing is a flashy leather suit and a cape.
Remedial direction by Breck Eisner, who up until now has only directed lesser known TV shows and some pilots; his style is a standard ‘put the camera there and shoot’, with horribly shot fight scenes. Written by Cory Goodman (the lame Priest), with Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (the terrible Dracula Untold), this movie just copycats the other movies I mentioned and doesn’t even try to be original. However, I do have to single out all the SPFX, which are very good here.
Diesel says he likes his character and wants to do a franchise of The Witch Hunter! Egads! NO!!! The real shame here is wasting the talents of Elijah Wood and veteran actor Michael Caine who, I’m just guessing here, must have needed the work to pay off their summer homes in Italy.
John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998)
You want vampires? You want gruesome? You want dark humor? I gots what you needs! John Carpenter took the classic vampire tale and added an Indian Jones-kinda guy to hunt down those blood-suckers. Be forewarned, this movie ain’t for the squeamish!
Eccentric James Woods stars as the last vampire hunter, Jack Crow. He and his team work for the Vatican, run by Cardinal Alba (Maximilian Schell), and are told where the elusive neck-biters can be found. Y’see, Jack has a blood-lust to kill ’em all since his whole family was wiped out by the suckers. The Vatican assigns Jack a handler and Church liason, one Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee) to oversee the killings, but he’s in for a rude awakening.
After cleaning out a nest of vampires, the vampire leader, Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) arises and is found to be after an ancient relic called the Black Cross of Berziers. If he gets a hold of that cross, performs a ritual ceremony of human blood, he’ll become immortal! Serious problems occur when Valek kills all of Jack’s team except for Guiteau and Montoya (Daniel Baldwin). There’s also Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a bitten hooker, they take along with them because she can “see” into Valek’s mind and gauge his whereabouts, like knowing Valek will be in New Mexico with the Black Cross in two days.
Even more problems pop-up when Montoya gets bitten by Katrina and slowly starts to turn while the ceremony is in full swing with (gulp!) Cardinal Alba in attendance! What the?? It looks like the good cardinal double-crossed Crow and Guiteau in order to gain some immorality of his own! Look for a dramatic, albeit anti-climatic ending, that leaves you thirsty for more adventures with Crow and company.
A terrific screenplay by Don Jakoby, who also wrote the wonderfully goofy Evolution, John Carpenter goes for the throat (pun intended) on this film, with some truly gross-out scenes of bodies being flailed and buckets o’blood splattering everywhere. All that coupled with some very dark humor and Carpenter’s whip-sharp direction, this is a dark little indulgence of grisly fun. Perfect for Halloween time! Funny, it was right after this movie that Carpenter swore he’d quit the movie-making business forever.