So here's the gimmick in "Season of the Witch": It takes place during the 14th century, but everyone speaks in contemporary language, which might have been acceptable if the dialogue were clever or intelligent or funny or, you know, good.
Instead, Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman are the knights who say ... nothing of any particular note in a supernatural action thriller that's never actually thrilling.
You expect this kind of schlock in January, but "Season of the Witch" isn't even bad in an enjoyable way. The scenery is drab, the battles are interchangeable, and no one seems particularly interested in being here. At the same time, Dominic Sena (who previously directed Cage in "Gone in Sixty Seconds") never flat-out goes for it in a schlocky, B-horror kind of way. What we're left with is just bloated, boring and utterly forgettable.
Cage isn't even in full-on, wheels-off Cage mode here, sadly. And from the looks of it — the fact that he's goateed, a little puffy and wears his hair in messy, chin-length waves — it held such promise. He delivers his lines in a droning monotone, as if returning to the morose actor we knew in the late 1990s. The one moment in which he busts out, snarling and screaming with his eyes narrowed and his teeth gnashed, it's such a relief. And then it's over.
When we first see his character, Behmen, he's at the top of his game at the height of the Crusades, brutally slaying untold numbers of men in the name of God. With Perlman as his wisecracking sidekick, Felson, he's unstoppable. But once he realizes that, whoa, women and children are being killed, too, Behmen grabs Felson and together they leave the battleground, and the Church. (Bragi Schut's screenplay vaguely hints at some sort of indictment of organized religion, then backs off in favor of one-liners and cheap scares.)
Upon their return, Behmen and Felson find that their home has been ravaged by the Black Plague; the general assumption is that this is the work of witches. The dying Cardinal (Christopher Lee, covered in gnarly sores, squandered in just one scene) orders them to transport a suspected witch to a faraway abbey for trial, or else they'll be imprisoned for desertion. (We know from the "Hellboy" movies that Perlman has a knack for deadpan humor, so it's a waste to have him make lame observations like, "As dungeons go, this one's not so bad.")
And so they set off on their journey, with the witch in question (Claire Foy) locked up in a cage, and with a motley crew of helpers in tow. Along the way there are episodic, video-game style threats (a rickety bridge suspended over a perilous gorge, a treacherous and foggy forest, a pack of fakey, CGI-looking wolves). It's a slog from one challenge to the next, with no real tension building, and all the while the alleged witch plays coy about whether she's actually a witch, pouting beneath her bangs, Kristen Stewart-style.
We know they won't all make it to their destination. Who lives and who dies doesn't really matter. The ones who survive must face a pack of zombie ninja monks — and even that isn't nearly as much fun as it sounds.
"Season of the Witch," a Relativity Media release, is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content. Running time: 100 minutes. One star out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.
- Dominic Sena
- Season of the Witch
- Ron Perlman
- Parental guidance
- Nicolas Cage