Smash-bang-boom, is the theme of the deliciously twisted action-horror fairy tale Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, directed by first-time Norwegian film maker Tommy Wirkola.
The film opens with the ever-so familiar: father wakes sleeping children scene. Which immediately invoked an “Oh, God don’t let this cliché opening be a foreshadowing,” response. However, things quickly spice-up as the young brother and sister duo suddenly find themselves without parents, and involuntary house guests of an evil candy peddling witch who ultimately becomes their first victim.
Flash-forward a couple of decades and we meet the now buff adult Hansel (Jeremy Renner), and his fiery leather clad sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton), who have become famous throughout the medieval fantasy world by seeking-out and ruthlessly slaying witches who have a propensity for stealing children.
The infamous duo are contracted by the mayor of a local village, who has grown frustrated with his sheriffs’ incompetence when it comes to retrieving the missing tots. The sheriff (Peter Stormare) attempts to accuse Mina, a local villager of witchcraft, however Hansel and Gretel do not agree with his accusation. A mutual loathing arises after Gretel displeased with the sheriffs shoddy witch detecting skills head-butts him, breaking his nose in the process.
The actions kicks into high-gear as the sheriff attempts to prove his worthiness by sending hired thugs to eliminate the witches before Hansel and Gretel. This leads to a full on brawl between the band of men and the haunting grotesque head witch Muriel (Famke Janssen), who questions the group while inflicting her sadistic wrath upon them.
Back in the village Hansel and Gretel quickly discover that something is terribly awry as the missing children appear to be part of an insidious plot, which involves a Blood Moon ritual requiring 6 boys, and 6 girls. They also come to meet Ben, an uber-fan, who provides them with a spell book of ultimate power. With only a few days before the Blood Moon, the witches feeling increasingly under threat, viciously attack the village, and successfully retrieve the 12th and final child needed for the sacrifice. The attack scene is brutally stunning, as is the wickedly chilling performance by Famke Janssen who does a fantastic job of terrorizing the villagers and the viewers.
The relationship between Mina, the accused villager and Hansel turns into a cheesefest as she attempts to ‘heal’ his wounds by getting him naked in a pool of ‘magic water’, at which point the obvious is revealed and she confesses to being a white witch. Gretel who was separated from her brother during the village attack goes in the woods and begins calling for her brother, by doing such she is discovered by the sheriff’s men who attempt to silence her permanently. Her screams are heard by a hideously adorable troll Edward, who comes to her aid and in an amazing action sequence rips the men from limb-to-limb. Edward nurses Gretel back to health, before disappearing back into the woods from which he came. However, after a fairly obvious plot-twist is revealed Gretel is captured again this time by the leader of the coven, Muriel.
After re-grouping back in the village the newly formed troupe consisting of Hansel, Mina (Hansel’s new squeeze) and the goofy yet likeable Ben set-off to confront the coven and rescue Gretel. The final melee is all that fantasy action fan could possibly ask for. Hansel and his new team unleash complete hell using their super-size artillery, coupled with some marvellous hand-to-hand combat. With the help of Edward, the troll and the team – Gretel is finally rescued.
The films leaves you satisfied in the action sense, but lacking in creative dialogue. The film was riddled with cheap one-liners and although easy-to-follow the story appeared wobbly and wanting at times. The films big-win it most definitely its visual appeal, with the 3D element adding a great deal as does the on-location scenes, both of which proved worthwhile in ensuring a cinematic wow factor.
So, if you’re looking for some high-end visual candy, without a complicated plot then Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, is most definitely the film for you.