Shot, sliced, struck, splayed; saved, sailed, smiled, strayed; and carried on. For Vin Diesel to start at one end of that trajectory and appear unscathed at the other is par for the course. Now imagine him as witch hunter Kaulder, with special powers and immortality. Witch, witches, or witch queen — which has a chance?
Not for want of trying. Kaulder may have survived 800 years of similar witch fights, starting with a maelstrom involving a lot of gnarled roots and barely discernible bodies, but here they are giving it another shot. Lending the whole exercise a sense of world-threatening gravitas is Michael Caine as ‘Dolan’, one of a series of priests appointed as hand-holders by the Church for Koulder.
Potions figure, powders fly, insects buzz, fires spark, shrivelled things become ‘weather manipulators’, swords with ancient engravings are dusted, and lots and lots of mysterious plants get dug up in the battle.
Wood is Dolan 37th, who replaces Caine’s Dolan 36th, after the latter has been put under a life-threatening spell. Leslie is a witch who runs a bar and who enters Koulder’s life just as he is being advised by the 36th Dolan to “find someone”. Plus, she is to jog Koulder’s deep-ingrained memory about the clash with the witch queen that changed his life.
The thing is the queen’s followers are trying to bring her back to life, and that’s not good at all, especially as she threatened to usher in the plague the last time.
Koulder, one of the last defences the world has against that danger, has a way of telling the witches from the humans, but they are not that hard to tell. All are dressed up in biker chic, with tattoos, rings, piercings and kohl eyes. A few are catwalk models.
At a particularly fretful moment involving garlic and a funeral parlour, the 37th Dolan turns to Kaulder and asks, “Does that make sense to you?”
The right question would be: “Did they think it should?”
Directed by Breck Eisner
Starring Vin Diesel, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie