Film review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (15)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
IN A NUTSHELL
No messing, but plenty of mess, as the rebooted Grimm siblings get busy with the witch-slapping.
Deep down, somewhere primal and icky, fairy tales have a potency beyond reason.
But Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola doesn't do deep down. Instead, he puts Hansel and Gretel in the title for the sake of clarity and gets on with the business of splatting so much gore on the floor that it fills the tread of his reboot.
Offal you might say. But this is what you wanted, right?
With the pre-title sequence (which is an animated highlight) he gets done with the Grimm fairytale of the brother and sister lured to a witch's candy house but who escape before their tormentor turns them into an incestuous risotto.
Now it's 15 years later and Grimm becomes gruesome as the two bounty hunters with a nifty arsenal of steampunk weaponry and a visceral hatred are busy gaining coinage and notoriety by dispatching a forestful of Olay-deprived child-snatchers.
The witches are heartless, lupine, fast and not afraid to hoik a spade in the mush of a foe.
They are also grotesque - except Famke Janssen's top trump meanie Muriel who needs the upcoming blood moon, a stone circle and a coven of gnarly crones to nail immortality.
Final ingredient in her brew is Gretel herself for a reason that has our leather-clad siblings pondering their past. They want to understand why they were abandoned in the forest by their parents in the first place.
Like a broom-born witch tethered to a tree, this goes round and round. There isn't much of a story and the character development is minimal but you don't give Jeremy Renner a bottle blonde white witch skinny dipping in a healing pool and expect a brooding soliloquy on the unfathomable inequities of the human condition.
Together with a delicious Gemma Arterton, who is feline in action and minxy in outlook, the pair (who have a sparky chemistry) do what they do best - witch-slapping.
Director Wirkola says: "I wanted the vibe of the original fairy tale but I also wanted to spice it with the things I love most in movies - comedy, horror and graphic action."
So witches get dispatched in the foulest of ways with the wickedest of weapons and the greatest of delight. Against a baroque setting of higgledy-piggledy houses and ancient forests, the pair grapple with the sisterhood and the riddle of their DNA.
Dialogue is clunky, a headbutt passes for a riposte and the undertone of misogyny is kicked in the crotch.
A director with a mischievous eye would have mercilessly mashed up the fairytale subculture, Shrek style, but, apart from some porridge, not too hot or not too cold, Wirkola eschews playfulness in favour of a 12-bore to the face wart.