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‘The Last Witch Hunter’ hunts for last-minute twists

By Rich Bonaduce, Standard-Examiner Correspondent - | Oct 22, 2015

I’m not sure why we needed another film about a secret war waging in the background of civilization between humans and (pick your threat here), but here it is. I’m also not sure why the screenplay for this film was featured in the 2010 Blacklist, which is a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

Maybe it’s because it’s surprisingly entertaining even though we’ve seen much of this kind of thing before. This time, witches are the supernatural threat, hell-bent on unleashing the Black Death upon the world. I’m not sure what they really get out of that other than a lot of dead people cities turning into overgrown jungles, but hey; who am I to question the Witch Queen? She’s an unrecognizable Julie Engelbrecht who was killed eight centuries ago by Kaulder (a unexpectedly charming Vin Diesel), a warrior with a flaming sword who was cursed by the Witch Queen right before her death with immortality, to keep him from seeing his beloved wife and daughter in the afterlife, whom she had killed.

Immortality doesn’t turn out to be such a bad deal. Kaulder is in full “Highlander” mode, albeit updated for 2015; bedding airline stewardesses left and right while driving a Tesla by day and hanging out in his high-rise penthouse at night. Curse me like that!

Diesel can’t quite pull off the more nuanced aspects of living forever and missing his long-dead family, and life actually seems pretty good… until his 26th Dolan (Michael Caine), a sort-of servant and recorder of all things Witch Huntery, is killed by magical forces intent on raising the Witch Queen from the dead. Kaulder not only has a new, young and green 37th Dolan to get used to (Elijah Wood), but he’s got to figure out how to keep humanity from dying of the Black Plague in the 21st century, so it’s not all fast cars and friendly women.

He’s spent the last 800 years hunting down rogue witches, but he also developed a soft spot in the interim. He rarely kills them and only imprisons them, and he lets most of them live similar to the way the vamps in “True Blood” or the aliens in “MIB” live: somewhat second-class citizens, but they certainly have their fans – and sometimes their own bars and shops. One such bar-owner named Chloe (Rose Leslie) becomes Kaulder’s sidekick in defeating the Witch Queen, and also his shoehorned love interest because you just gotta have a love interest in a effects-heavy action film.

But good luck following some of that action, edited in a slapdash way. But the special effects are turned up to 11 and are the high point of the film, as is the unexpected and welcome humor, normally resulting from some decent dialogue delivered by Caine or Leslie. The scenes between either of them and Diesel (as well as with Wood) end up handling the all too necessary exposition pretty well, at least until a disappointing third act which brings down the whole enterprise.

Odd gunplay is introduced to the magical realm along with obvious continuity problems and lots of people so not asking the questions most people would ask. At least the third act addresses most of the plot holes introduced in the first two acts, but it also has a case of sequel-itis and lots of last-minute twists with at least one (or two?) too many. This is a shame since “The Last Witch Hunter” was shaping up to becoming much more entertaining and funny than the trailers implied, but it imploded under a weak finish.


  • THE FILM: ‘The Last Witch Hunter'
  • CRITIC RATING: ** 1/2 stars
  • STARRING: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, ”lafur Darri ”lafsson, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine
  • PLAYING: Layton Hills 9, Syracuse 6, Megaplex 13, Cinemark Farmington, Layton Tinseltown, Newgate Tinseltown, Megaplex 14, Walker 8, North Ogden 6
  • MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. 106 minutes


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