Monday 25 February 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters review

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (15/R, 88 mins)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

For some reason we’ve had any number of fairytale reimaginings lately, to varying degrees of success. This time around the classic Grimm story of brother and sister Hansel and Gretel gets a demented action twist added, and proves to be reasonable value for the undemanding.

We first meet Hansel and Gretel as children, when they are taken at night by their father deep into the woods, where they discover a house made of candy. Instead of falling prey to the witch inside, they destroy her, setting in motion their careers as witch hunters extraordinaire.

Many years later, as adults played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, they're heroes who travel around the country sorting out witch problems wherever they find them. They arrive at a town where children have been going missing, soon discovering that the local witch (Famke Janssen) has been snatching them, and she’s up to no good with some mumbo-jumbo about becoming all-powerful at the blood moon.

Wisely played tongue in cheek, otherwise it would collapse under its own stupidity, Hansel and Gretel is a cheesy and passably entertaining action fantasy. It’s not really concerned with anything other than witch-fighting action, which the armed-to-the-teeth siblings engage in frequently. These scenes are frantically edited and initially quite samey, but the high level of blood and gore makes for good clean Friday night fun.

Thanks to a $50m budget, production values are high, which can help immensely with this sort of thing - there’s nothing worse than a ridiculous film that looks ugly at the same time. And the special effects are really pretty tidy, particularly a troll who comes to have quite a bearing on the story.

In the leads, Renner and Arterton display little personality, but as the only Americans in the village, their swearing and modern sensibilities in what one supposes is the 19th century offers the chance for a few nice gags.

Events proceed without much care or sense from one barney to the next, but if you’re willing to accept the utter absurdity of the setup, there are a whole lot worse examples of this brand of goofy fantasy action out there.

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