Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Zoe Bell, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Robin Atkin Downes, Derek Mears
SYNOPSIS: In this spin on the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.
REVIEW: Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola moves from Nazi zombies to child-eating witches with a script he crafted with new-comer co-writer Dante Harper. Originally a well-known fairy tale of German origin and published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, Wirkola looks to up the ante with adult siblings with a mysterious past, a cache of weapons, and a perchance for hunting down and killing patrons of black cauldrons and darker magics.
As children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner, Marvel's The Avengers) and his sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) are led into the woods by their father by behest of their mother. Left alone in the woods, they find a house made out of candy. They enter the house, cold and hungry, suddenly finding themselves the prisoners of even hungrier witch. With a little bit of luck, Hansel and Gretel kill the witch and escape with their lives.
As they grow up, the siblings continue to hunt down and dispatch witches wherever they find them. They become renowned as witch hunters. Years later, in the town of Oxford, several children have been abducted by witches, forcing the sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare, The Last Stand) to perform public hearings and forcing the mayor to contract with Hansel and Gretel to find the children and kill the witches. But the actions of the witch they seek baffled the hunters. As another child get taken, Hansel and Gretel must overcome extreme odds against a cadre of spellcaster and a troll led by Muriel (Famke Janssen,Taken 2) to prevail. The question is... with only a local fan named Ben (Thomas Mann, Fun Size) and a woman named Mina (Pihla Viitala, Must Have Been Love) who was formerly accused of being a witch... will they live to slay another day?
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters follows in a long line of classics including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Red Hood: Werewolf Slayer, and Teddy Roosevelt: Rough Riding Zombie Killer... Wait, some of those do not sound like real films!?
The colon titled films continue, most recently with a supernatural bent. While Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter came from modern literature which followed the literary mash-up 'Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies', writer/director Tommy Wirkola takes a page from network television's 'Grimm' by taking a fresh look at the German born and bred Brothers Grimm and their dark literary works. Most of their tales feature savage acts and dire consequences. What happens, though, after the children kill the witch and escape from the dark forest? In today's age, those kids would have spent years in therapy at a huge expense. In the simpler age of man, Hansel and Gretel take out their psychological scars the old fashioned way... they burn it (witches, that is).
This new twist on the dark fairy tale is very tongue and cheek. From the moment you see glass milk bottles with parchment tied to the side with 'Missing Child' information, you know that this production does not take themselves or the story too seriously. And that works to its advantage.
The town of Oxford is a generic hamlet that could have seen a multiple of creatures - from dragons to vampires to, yes, witches - fly through it. Everyone has Americanized accents. And the word "awesome" is bantered about from the younger generation residing in the burg. The weapons, apparent early Galileo designs, are so far advanced for the time period that any historians may find their heads literally exploding. But where Hansel and Gretel fall short on period accuracy, they make up for it with action, explosions, and general ass-kickery!
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton take on the roles of Hansel and Gretel with relish and fun. Renner reprises his Hawkeye role from the Avengers, trading in a high-tech compound bow for iron boom sticks that Tony Stark would have been proud of. Gemma, the lighter weight of the siblings, still carries herself like a girl who had grown up decapitating and burning witches for a living. Both clad in leather, Hansel and Gretel take on all comers of the spell casting variety. They seem outmatched against hags with flying brooms and magic wands, but their passion for killing evil witches and ingenuity seem to balance the scales.
The witches in the tale are hideous and unique, each resembling the lands in which they roam. Murial is joined by Horned Witch (Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Chernobyl Diaries) as her main accomplice, but as the blood moon draws near, others flock to the mountain stronghold with their own creepy looks and powers. And as we all know, witches hate to do any menial task, so they have troll Edward (Derek Mears, Gangster Squad) to carry out their heavy work. Plenty of unique details are added to each witch to give the audience some great eye candy. Sorry, Candy Witch!
A fun popcorn movie with plenty of gory action from beginning to end, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters may surprise moviegoers. As long as you can join in the fun that the story seems to convey, this new twist on a dark fairy tale may actually spellbind you!
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 | Movie or DVD
Rated: R Fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.
Release Date: January 25, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 28 minutes
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Dante Harper