Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen
You may like this if you liked: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov, 2012), Drive Angry (Patrick Lussier, 2011), Dead Snow (Tommy Wirkola, 2009)
Right, well we all know the fairy tale, but here we go. As children, siblings Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) are left in the woods by their dad and all of a sudden come across a cottage made entirely of candy. They are then captured by the witch that lives there but somehow escape after killing the witch. Now older and armed with guns and American accents, the two orphans are bounty hunters who make a living from killing witches across Germany. Trust me whatever moment in time this is supposed to be is irrelevant. The mayor of a small town hires them to hunt down who has been abducting the local children, which they discover to be the extremely powerful dark witch Muriel (Famke Janssen). Soon they discover that they must stop a plan to use the children’s blood that will make the witches even more powerful as well as learning about the true identity of their parents.
Well, with a title like that before watching this I was hardly expecting something deep and meaningful! Personally, I thought this was the concept for something that could be enjoyable fun if done the right way. The last dying words of a character emotionally connected to one of our protagonists is “Kill that f***king witch”, so this never wants to be a profoundly moving piece of cinema. As controversial as it may be to say this, but I did prefer this to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (just) as it is most definitely made with a more tongue in cheek tone. However, despite the over the top violence, outrageously advanced weaponry and ‘funny’ swearing (“Whatever you do, don’t eat the f***ing candy!) this is actually quite boring.
I don’t care about the flaws and plot holes, if I was to go into them this would be an extremely long review, but for me H&G:WHs is nowhere near as fun as it should be. The main reason for this is the casting decisions. Renner maybe a big deal now, and though I thought he was excellent in The Hurt Locker, he is horrifically miscast here so much that it is quite frankly embarrassing to watch. He is quite boring to watch in most of his films, and here he is given ‘comic’ lines and fluffs them beyond description. If maybe he looked like he was enjoying himself then it may not have been so bad, but even he looks bored. Arterton is not much better, doing an (appalling) American accent for no reason; she looks even more bored than Jeremy. I would never expect Shakespeare standard thesping, but the two lead actors (who I am sure would be earning a decent wage) at least looking like they are having fun would be nice. If they aren’t having fun, then why the hell should the viewer?!? For example, Knight & Day: Tom Cruise, Drive Angry: William Fichtner. Very silly films yes, but it is obvious these two are really enjoying themselves, it should never be underestimated how much of a difference that makes to the viewer. Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare (looking like inspector Clouseau) may chew the scenery and completely overact but at least they are having a go. Better to overact than look physically bored the entire time.
OK, so I have seen worse and some of the moments of action are quite enjoyably gory and over the top. When our extremely bored heroes face a fraternity of witches this scene is visually quite fun, complete with machine gun (!). There are plenty of exploding and crushed heads, flying body parts and claret everywhere, so there is potential fun to be had. Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola did the bonkers, but actually a lot of fun Nazi zombies in the snow film Dead Snow, and there are times when this could have been just as bonkers and enjoyable as that. Maybe a bit more effort on the script and this would have been a welcome addition to the ‘guilty pleasures’ list. Alas, the final product is a potentially fun, but a predominantly boring splatter fest. There is a plethora of ‘silly and gory’ films out there, so a little more effort and a little less complacency is needed when making one. One pointer Tommy: If your ‘actors’ are looking this bored when you are directing, do something about it!
There was potential here, but what could have been a thoroughly enjoyable bit of gory over the top nonsense is ruined mainly by two protagonists being so visibly bored that the trees of the German forests actually look less wooden.