Season Of The Witch (2011)

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Not to be confused with the Romero movie from 1972 or the UK film from 2009, this Season Of The Witch is a big-budget slice of hokum starring Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman and directed by Dominic Sena.

We start with a nice little intro that makes it clear that the world this movie takes place in is a world in which evil witches do exist. We then move forward and sideways in time and geography to join up with Nic Cage and Ron Perlman maintaining friendly banter with each other while they slice and dice heathens in the name of god. Yes, our two heroes are Knights of the Crusades. At least, they are until Cage is overwhelmed with disgust at the killing of women and children and decides to go AWOL, joined by his good friend. When the two knights are discovered by inhabitants of a plague-infected city they are given an ultimatum – escort an accused witch to a distant monastery, where she will be tried and dealt with or face the punishment for their defection from the crusades. The two men, reluctantly, agree to accompany the girl despite Cage doubting that the girl is actually a witch. A few other men will go along with them, including one acting as a guide, but there may be something else on the journey, acting unseen and with malice.

It’s hard for me to see why so many other reviews of this movie have simply written it off as a waste of your time and money when it’s actually a good slice of entertainment mixing the medieval with the medi-evil. There’s a pleasing ambiguity for most of the film, decent atmosphere and a few enjoyable set-pieces. The computer effects may not always be the very best (especially when depicting some decidedly nasty wolves) but they’re not dire and certainly make up for any precious failings in an enjoyably baddie-filled finale.

Dominic Sena throws in enough action here and there to keep boredom at bay but he also doesn’t feel the need to fill the movie from beginning to end with anything too frenetic or over-edited. The script, by Bragi F. Schut, has its share of cheese in there and never really feels anywhere near authentic, especially with Cage and Perlman’s knockabout banter, but it sketches out details, information and characteristics and then makes way for a moment of mild tension or confrontation.

Those who don’t like Nicolas Cage won’t be won over here. Perlman is more believable thanks to his build and sense of world-weariness but he doesn’t do much better. Thankfully, the supporting players are all decent enough. Stephen Campbell Moore is especially good as the one man who the knights don’t want to trust but who may be trying to keep them all safe from harm in the way he advises treating the girl. Ulrich Thomsen also does fine, as does Stephen Graham. Claire Foy is the potential witch and veers nicely between sweet innocent and savage danger, depending on how she thinks her life is being threatened. Then there’s Robert Sheehan as a youngster who looks up to the knights and wants to be of assistance, not a particularly complex role but Sheehan is good enough in it.

When you stop to think about most of the events in the movie it becomes clear just how stupid everything is and how big the gaping plot holes are but while the film is running it’s passable entertainment with some decent set-pieces here and there. I enjoyed it, I left the cinema, I won’t rush to buy it on shiny disc but I had fun for the duration.

DIRECTOR: DOMINIC SENA
STARS: NICOLAS CAGE, RON PERLMAN, STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE, STEPHEN GRAHAM, ROBERT SHEEHAN
RUNTIME: 95 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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