The Last Witch Hunter

Director: Breck Eisner (2015)

Chrome domed action hero Vin Diesel defies the dark arts in this deathlessly dull supernatural action adventure.

As a one man Papal super-weapon called Kaulder he uses his rubble voiced presence to brazen his way through a series of beautifully looking but dramatically inert action set-pieces.

As his handler, confessor and friend Father Dolan, Michael Caine provides lengthy exposition before retiring and being incapacitated by a spell.

Thus he spends much of the film comatose. Insert your own joke here.

This allows for the introduction of younger actors and to trundle in a laboured ticking clock plot device.

Meanwhile the star of the Fast Furious franchise is given a cool car to pose with.

Cursed with eternal life and so being generally indestructible is a bit of a tension killer, so he’s also provided with a couple of imperilled passengers.

Elijah Wood is a wide-eyed replacement for Caine who attempts to drag Kaulder into the digital age. Rose Leslie plays a breathy voiced barkeep with hidden powers.

When an 800 year old truce between the church and the witches is broken, a plot to destroy the world is uncovered.

The silliness is CGI heavy but logic light and soon I was longing for the camp majesty of Russell Mulcahy‘s Highlander (1986).

Diesel’s last role which wasn’t a talking plant or a Fast Furious franchise flick was Riddick (2013), a dimly misogynist sci-fi sequel to the brilliant Pitch Black (2000) and the third film in that series.

Similarly this film has a woeful attitude towards women. Witch Hunter begins with a preamble through the medieval period and Kaulder’s mindset remains rooted there.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the script paid more the most meagre lip service to the intervening years of emancipation.

Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless seem to have divvied up the writing into separate parts without ever consulting each other.

Kaulder’s employers the Axe and the Cross, a male religious order dedicated to protecting the world from evil witches.

This wouldn’t be a problem if some sort of balance or modern spin was put on the story, such a s portraying Kaulder as man comically out of step with the times.

Schwarzenegger could still make a very decent fist of that film, but Diesel lacks Arnie’s confidence to send himself up. After all, a man in his position can’t afford to be to look ridiculous.

Instead we’re invited to admire Kaulder’s macho effectiveness at slaughtering his way through waves of women and their compliant male underlings.

With exception of Leslie’s character Chloe and a sexually willing flight attendant, women are portrayed as youth obsessed sexpots or foul midnight hags intent on ruining the lives of man.

Poor Chloe is caught somewhere between being an unsuitably aged romantic interest and a surrogate daughter figure.

In Gladiator (2000) Russell Crowe‘s Maximus sought to rejoin his murdered family in Elysium, a state of peace and grace.

When Kaulder’s real daughter and her mother appear in his dreams they represent weakness, capitulation and subjugation.

Everything the unrepentant, unreconstructed and fiercely heterosexual Kaulder lives to combat.

As the big bad villain, the queen witch is an anonymous shrieking harpy with vaguely explained plans of evil.

She’s less an evil protagonist than just another obstacle to be overcome, her existence serves only to underscore how heroic and manly Kaulder is.

However as her future vision of New York is to transform it into a pastoral idyll, the script may be rooting for the wrong team.