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The Last Witch Hunter (2 stars)

Derivative fantasy adventure led by an unconvincing Vin Diesel

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The Last Witch Hunter

Vin Diesel wielding a flaming sword to fight witches who dress like melodic death metal musicians and resemble Shane MacGowan sounds like a lot of fun on paper. Unfortunately fun is exactly the element that’s missing from this dodgy fantasy adventure from director Breck Eisner (Sahara, The Crazies) that spends too much time explaining the rules and regulations of its uninspired realm.

It’s the last day on the job for Dolan 36th (Michael Caine) who watches over fierce warrior Kaulder (Diesel), as part of his responsibility to the 'Order of the Axe & Cross', who wage war against witch-kind under the guise of the church. When Dolan 36th is found dead it’s down to his successor Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood), Kaulder and dreamwalker / witch Chloe (Rose Leslie) to team up to investigate his murder.

After a brisk and entertaining opening sequence which sees Kaulder being damned to eternal life by evil entity the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht playing a twisted tree stump-like CGI creature), The Last Witch Hunter instantly loses momentum as it enters post 9/11 New York, where themes of trust and terrorism are mildly touched upon. And the battle between traditional methods and modern technology is also seemingly up for discussion – with Caine triumphantly swatting a bug with his book at one point and declaring, ‘You can’t do that with an iPad.' However, the team of screenwriters (Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless) don’t ever dig below surface-level on any of these issues.

Points of reference include Highlander for weaponry and story components, and Hellboy for design. But Eisner's film never feels like more than a cheap knock-off of both, especially as Diesel fails to convince in his role. His delivery is mostly flat and rarely do any of the one-liners hit their mark. It's a story of sorcery seriously lacking in cinematic magic.

General release from Wed 21 Oct.

The Last Witch Hunter

  • 2 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 106 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Breck Eisner
  • Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood
  • UK release: 21 October 2015

Immortal witch-hunter Kaulder (Diesel) teams up with his overseer Dolan (Wood) and dreamwalker/witch Chloe (Leslie) to investigate the murder of Dolan's predecessor (Caine). A cheap Highlander / Hellboy knock-off that spends far too much time explaining its own backstory, not helped by a flat and unconvincing performance…

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