After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches…their past.
Imagine Hansel and Gretel from Grimm’s fairytales, only they’re not children anymore but adults! Adults with kickass weapons. No, wait, hot movie stars with kick-ass computer generated weaponry. Now picture them with streets smarts, attitude and (pretty average) one-liners. The apparent audience for this movie is television’s Supernatural.
The setting is Europeanesque, the time is the Middle Ages, the technology is steam punk. Hansel and Gretel hate witches. They were nearly killed by one, see, when they were infants. Traumatised by this experience they have but one mission–kill all witches. They go from town to town offering their services as witch hunters. They execute their missions with superior training, weapons and a plethora of visual effects.
HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is one of a tsunami of fairy-tale themed projects that is currently flooding our screens. There are in fact four Hansel and Gretel projects dated 2013 on the International Movie Database, including one where the witch lures teens with her own “special blend of marijuana”. Fortunately, the version of Hansel and Gretel we saw has a more traditional witch in a candy cottage. AccessReel doesn’t have to take drugs to have a good time, kids. We like to stay in control.
The movie is the first English-speaking feature for Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola. His best-known film previously is DEAD SNOW (2009) a horror-comedy about a group of young students fighting off an attack of Nazi zombies. HANSEL AND GRETEL is a clear step up the ladder for Wirkola. The film was shot in Germany and has actors from there, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland as well as the United States and UK.
If you have a desire for a movie with archery, decapitation, dismemberment, exploding bodies and lashings of gore, then put this on top of your To Do list this weekend. HANSEL AND GRETEL is a fast moving, trifling of an action film that won’t trouble your mind with plot or character. I rated it 5/10.
Read no further if this sounds like your cup of mead. Seriously, just go to the movie and have a rip roaring good time, because from here on in, the review is me nit-picking stuff. And who wants to read that?
HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS seems tremendously impressed with its own thin premise. Take a fairytale and sex it up with guns. Woohoo! Why not make RED RIDING HOOD: WOLF SLAYER? Like MIRROR MIRROR (2012) which proposed a marginally feminist Snow White who learnt fighting moves or even ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), these films are conceived by cross-pollinating one genre with another to come up with a third allegedly “out there idea” that is, in fact, reductive and predictable. Because sometimes one good thing added to another good thing, creates a third thing that is less than the sum of its parts. How about Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants except they’re all zombies? How about Jane Eyre but she’s a robot? And she’s left here as a sentinel awaiting an alien invasion!
Renner and Arterton do the best they can with this material, but they are largely left to spin their wheels. Famke Janssen is apparently having so much fun as Head Witch, Muriel, that she seems underused. Bjørn Sundquist who was also in DEAD SNOW, has a larger supporting role than one might expect. It seems to be a hat-tip to the veteran Norwegian actor. One of the best things in the movie is a troll called Edward. He’s a marvel of prosthetic make up and animatronics. The movie lacks notable action sequences or insightful or even comedic character moments. The ending hints at a sequel which shows no lack of confidence on the part of Mr Wirkola and the movie’s producers.
HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS runs for a speedy 88 minutes and is out in Australian cinemas now. You can also check out our interview with the film’s producer Kevin Messick here.