Dominic Sena’s Season Of The Witch is one of those glossy, noisy supernatural medieval romps that somehow hovers on the line between feeling like a big budget blockbuster and a direct to video outing. It stars Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman as two veteran knights of the crusades who become disillusioned with their often brutal cause and the unfortunate civilian casualties that accompany it. They set out on their own as freelance mercenaries and are soon hired by a plague-ridden Cardinal (a near unrecognizable Christopher Lee) to transport a suspected witch (Claire Foy)… somewhere, I wasn’t really paying attention but it involves lots of snowy mountains, dangerous bridge crossings and eventually a spooky old castle for the grand finale. This is pretty run of the mill stuff, the CGI is really weak, the plot is inexcusably thin, historical accents are dodgy and the PG-13 rating pretty much guarantees a lack of genuine bite or edge as far as horror is concerned. It’s mediocre on almost every level but for some reason I found myself enjoying bits of it, despite my best efforts. I think that it has to do with Cage and Perlman, who are both terrific here and really deserve to be in a better film. They’ve never acted together before but they have effortless bromance chemistry here, they take full advantage of the writing and simply seeing them bantering, bickering or slinging tavern pints together is kind of a small delight. Aside from them it’s generic, the supporting cast includes familiar faces like Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Rory ‘The Hound’ McCann, Brian F. O’Byrne and Robert Sheehan who all try valiantly to make impressions with… varied results. The problem too is that the film promises us a witch and when it comes time to deliver they reveal that this chick isn’t really a witch at all, she’s something far worse and unfortunately something that the film just didn’t seem to have enough budget bucks to properly present onscreen, and it hurts its chances. Still, it’s worth a look for the beautiful, rugged scenery (filmed mainly in Austria) plus Cage and Perlman, who are legitimately engaging and perhaps someday will get a better film to do their buddy-cop knights edition routine.
How to put this: if none of the classic video games featuring Agent 47 were ever made, and Xavier Gen’s Hitman was a standalone film, it wouldn’t be a half bad little B-movie type actioner, with a few gnarly set pieces and a level of acceptable energy kept up throughout. As a film version of these beloved games, however, it just just crashes and burns. Here’s why: the games were very specific, stealthy and designed to be atmospheric, slow burning tactical missions carefully built upon each other like a precarious house of cards, each mission more complex, difficult and risky than the last. The film? A standard Hollywood-ized action narrative that blatantly ignores every structural piece and character quality of the games. When will they learn? What’s more is, the film would have been unique, something memorable, had they followed the blueprint which the games pioneered, but they always just insist on cheapening the formula with boring old movie tropes instead of revering an already charted course which made the source material popular enough to get a film version green-lit in the first place. Ironic. Anywho, this ones your standard globetrotting cheeseball outing, with a bald Timothy Olyphant doing his best yet coming nowhere close to being a solid 47, stuck in a mucky plot involving corrupt Eastern Europeans, double crossing fellow agents and pursued by a hyped up Dougray Scott as some Interpol bigwig and Robert Knepper as a shady Russian (dat accent tho) secret police dude. 47 is betrayed by his own organization and tossed to the dogs, forced to go rogue and, in the film’s most grave plotting misstep, saddled with babysitting duty to a Slavic damsel in distress (Olga Kurylenko). They seriously just gotta hurl a Bond babe into every flick that remotely resembles a 007 venture, don’t they, which is a major offence when you look at what a ruthlessly mythic, near inhuman creature 47 is in the games, and what a manipulatable chump he becomes when pinned under the yoke of this painfully silly script. The 46 I know would just as soon as bury a bullet in this chick’s head as let her tag along and become a liability, let alone start to develop (cringe) human emotions. Such are the dollar signs in the eyes of studio execs though, and any hope of a faithful adaptation suffers as a result. The few sequences that work, including a hotel escape and a subway car Mano á mano between 47 and his genetically altered fellow killers, just don’t feel remotely inspired by, or in the spirit of the video games. The film has a few muted notes of originality, but any action piece that feels the need to pilfer John Powell’s Bourne Identity score instead of hiring a composer to whip up something fresh just can’t be taken seriously. Big ol’ meh from me, think I’ll rent out a PS2 from the pawn shop and settle in with Hitman: Blood Money again, because this shit doesn’t cut it.