Director Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters uses the famous Brothers Gimm story as a launch pad for a patchy and disappointing action-comedy.
The action starts with the titular siblings being sent from their home at night only to be caught by a witch who, discovering her magic doesn’t work on them, they quickly bump-off.
Fast forward 20 years and the pair, now played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, are professional, kick-ass Witch Hunters, hiring their services out to villages terrorised by the evil spell-casters.
The duo appear to live in a sort of medieval world, yet one where they pack apparently hand-fashioned guns.
Essentially what we have here is The Princess Bride crossed with The A-Team.
And sadly it just doesn’t work, not least because H&G lacks the effortless charm of Rob Reiner & William Goldman’s classic masterpiece and, unlike Stephen J. Cannell’s TV show, takes itself so seriously that the audience is never allowed to view it for the daft knockabout that it is.
Wirkola’s direction is haphazard with action sequences so jumpy and fragmented that they often feeling like you’re watching a selection of excerpts rather then a finished film.
The script, which he co-wrote, is a checklist of every cliche you can imagine: love struck teenager with a dose of hero worship, villain’s stooge looking for redemption, obstructive local official and supposedly ‘dark’ revelation about hero’s childhood.
Worse, the script commits the biggest storytelling sin of all – a revelation so obvious that a) it’ll surprise no-one in the audience and b) makes the heroes look impossibly thick for never having considered the possibility before they’re smacked around the head with it.
The swearing and gore levels are so high it’s impossible not to see them as ill-considered and doomed to fail attempts to cover the script’s obvious holes.
Meanwhile the two leads phone in such sleepy performances that one assumes they cottoned on pretty quickly to how awful the film was going to turn out.
How an actor of Renner’s talent ended up making such dross is a mystery.
It’s rare to encounter a film with so little going for it and nothing to redeem it, but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is evidence that even in these austere times such films do still get made
Our verdict: 2/5