There’s something remarkably appealing about the notion of supernaturalism happening behind our backs. This idea that while we all go about our daily business, toys are coming to life and speaking, or young wizards are running through walls at Kings Cross station – to place enchantment and surrealism into a world we know, awhile we remain blissfully unaware. It’s what sets the premise for Breck Eisner’s The Last Witch Hunter – where witches live amongst us, and yet we haven’t the faintest of ideas.
While the aforementioned community seem intent on unleashing the black death upon the unsuspecting public, there is one man, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) who is assigned the simple task of protecting humanity, doing all that he can to keep the witches at bay and ensure they can live in peace and co-exist alongside their human counterparts. It’s a job that Kaulder has kept for 800 years, having been cursed with immortality by the nefarious Queen Witch moments before the hunter eliminated his savage antagonist. Now, alongside his assistant Dolan 36th
This playful endeavour is undoubtedly an entertaining one, but is too stony-faced in parts, which is of the film’s detriment. If anybody can ramp up the illusory, inane aspects of a film and enhance the farcicality to positive effect– it’s Vin Diesel. Just take the Fast & Furious franchise, which thrives in being fanciful and overstated. Had The Last Witch Hunter revelled greater in the absurdity on show, and affectionately employed such traits without compromising its artistic integrity, it may have let the endeavour off the hook in a few instances where it’s impossible to forgive.
The picture is lacking any palpable suspense either, mostly thanks to the fact the protagonist is immortal, detracting from the intensity at hand as we know fully well he’s going to come out unscathed. In the meantime there is also an underwritten, superfluous romantic narrative concerning Kaulder and the not-so-bad witch Chloe (Rose Leslie), which bears little chemistry for us to believe in and abide by.
Conversely, there’s actually a great, investable screen chemistry between Vin Diesel and Caine, with their moments together providing the majority of the most heartfelt and absorbing sequences. That’s not to say the performances are particularly commendable mind you, as Caine is effectively revising his role as Alfred, while Vin Diesel is just playing, well, Vin Diesel. Though to be honest, that’s generally what people hope for, and expect from the charismatic performer, so hardly the end of the world.