Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Season of the Witch

 One thing is certain: Nicolas Cage takes himself way too seriously when he shouldn't.  As evidenced by the awesome - yet vaguely confusing - video clip of Cage pulling a Christian Bale in Bucharest shouting repeatedly, "I'll die in the name of honour!" and even further evidenced by his incredibly boring performance in Season of the Witch.  What could have been prime camp material comes off as something that, without Cage's starpower (he still has that, right?), would have gone direct-to-DVD.

The film begins with an incredibly overwrought montage of Behman (Cage), a knight who will indeed die in the name of honour, and his friend Felson (Ron Pearlman) fighting through the crusades.  And fighting. And fighting.  And, yet, still fighting. After participating in the slaughter of women and children, both abandon the church.  Soon, they find themselves tasked with shepherding a young girl accused of witchcraft (Claire Foy) to a city of monks which holds an ancient book that will cure her, thus ending the bubonic plague.

Director Dominic Sena, formerly beholden to Michael Bay, follows every possible beat a medieval actioner should - including an interminably long rickety bridge scene and a spooky forest - with almost as little interest as he has with originality.  He briefly plays with the idea that Foy is merely a scapegoat for the church, but Sena and screenwriter Bragi F. Schut seem to find fuzzy, close-up action sequences of the pseudo-Bourne variety much more interesting than ideas.

Though it should benefit from some ham from one of the hammiest out there, Season of the Witch has its lead descend into freak-out mode only once, while keeping Cage quietly, almost bizarely, reserved. Pearlman seems to be the only one having any fun.  His laid-back, affable knight who cares more about post-battle ale is more in keeping with what Season of the Witch could have been.  If only Cage had followed suit, it could have at least been another Wicker Man.  It winds up just being dull.

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