HANSEL & GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS
By Gary Murray
Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare and Famke Janssen
Written by Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Running time 88 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Cable
In the vacuum that is Hollywood ideas, the last few years have been scraping the sides and bottom of the inspiration barrel. We have gone from making bad TV shows and old movies into modern features to going way back and re-imaging fairy tales. In the last few years, audiences have been subjected to Little Red Riding Hood, Mirror-Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. The latest to go down this well-worn path is Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters.
The film starts a few years before the main adventure. Young Hansel and Gretel are children who live in the woods with a loving mother and father. Something bad happens and the children have to hide in the woods, awaiting their father to rescue them. After a while, the children venture into a different part of the forest, coming upon a house made of candy. Inside is a witch who captures the tykes. After a struggle, the young ones destroy the evil witch and a career/obsession is born.
We fast-forward a few years and the two little ones are all grown-up and infamous around the countryside. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) is the handsome clumsy rogue and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) is the leather clad heroine straight out of a Heart LP cover. Where she is comfortable with a multi-firing crossbow, he is handier with a mid-evil style shot gun.
They are summoned to a town that is missing eleven children. Many of the locals fear the worst for the youngsters but our two heroes believe that the children are just missing and not dead. The local sheriff (Peter Stormare) does not like the two bounty hunters and hires some of his own men to go into the forest to search.
These men find a super witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) how has her own plans with both the children and the two witch hunters. It also concerns the upcoming Blood Moon. Muriel also knows something about the past which could affect the future. The entire movie builds to a battle between the forces of good and evil.
The best way to describe Hansel & Gretel is a blending of Fractured Fairytales with Quentin Tarantino. There are moments of silliness that hark back to those old cartoon episodes melded with an orgy of violence and blood. This film revels in hemoglobin as it destroys every witch in its path.
Director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola seems to have studied his Asian chop-socky violence and patterned each shot after one that has been done before. This is a film of style-over-substance where one just takes in the carnage and doesn’t worry about the plot as much.
Wirkola makes massive use of CGI blood and guts in destroying his evil spell-incarnators. The use of 3D is much like it was imagined years ago–a version of cheap effects just to throw stuff at the screen. The film is a testament to how to make exploitation without giving explanation.
The cast seems to be having a ball while making this film. Gemma Arterton is a former Bond girl who finally gets to do the action and not be an object to ogle. She gets to kick some bad witches and become covered in blood on more than one occasion. Jeremy Renner plays the hero with a clumsy charm. Eventually he wins over the local girl that he has saved from the evil townsfolk. They become close in a scene that solidifies its ‘R’ rating. This is in no way a film for children.
Famke Janssen chews every scene she attempts with a relish seldom seen. The snarls and bites almost as if she were channeling a wild animal caught in a corner. These over-the-top roles are just the kind of fun little parts that actors relish. She seems to be having a great deal of fun with the role of Muriel.
Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters will never win any awards. It is more of a ‘check your brain at the door’ and ‘enjoy the stupid melee before you’. This is in no way a great film but it a funny and fun little diversion. It is much more enjoyable that expected.