Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare. Directed by Peter Wirkola. Written by Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper.
I can't wait to tell bedtime stories to my future children. As Olivia Wilde-Bartle tucks our kids in, I will lovingly describe two medieval German children trapped by a witch and how they used their superior intellect and a Gatling gun to get away. Ok, so that dreamworld is admittedly far-fetched - medieval Germany didn't have Gatling guns. But Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters does not care. As a matter of fact, there is little the film cares about besides looking cool.
The newest film to jump on the back of the Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters stars one of the coolest leading men in Hollywood (Jeremy Renner) as Hansel. Gemma Arterton, who plays Gretel, matches her costar's every slick kick and sassy retort. The two work well, but only when they're together. Apart, Arterton stumbles on a choppy script where every line is either a one-liner or an epiphany.
The story starts on a path similar to the ancient folk tale. But where it ends, the true fun begins. In the best part of the film, the opening credits, we see animation interlaced with newspaper clippings highlighting all the witches that our heroic siblings defeat. Then the fun starts to nosedive as action begins again. Anachronistic weapons, demeanor and dialogue quickly let viewers know the film isn't trying to be a period piece.
With what should be an excellent supporting cast with pros like Peter Stormare (Fargo) and Famke Janssen (X-Men), the story unfolds into a tale of revenge. Janssen, the film's antagonistic grand witch, puts in the best performance out of all we see onscreen.
Director Tommy Wirkola, known for the absurd comedy-horror Dead Snow, cannot seem to find the right mix. The over-the-top violence and gore clash with the softer sides in Hansel & Gretel. The minimal humor is mostly based around exploding bodies and conveniently placed f-bombs. While Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters fares better than the ridiculous Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it never comes close to living up to its expectation. Still, I'm going to keep in the bits about the Gatling gun when I tell my kids the classic story. —Gary Bartle