Friday, March 14, 2014

Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

If you're looking for a light snack of a movie to take your mind off missing planes or Russian imperialism, Hansel & Gretel can fill that void in your soul! This action-horror movie boasts a cheerful "fuck it!" attitude and in no way takes itself seriously, which allows everyone involved to pull off ridiculous action, dialogue, tech, and plot. Thankfully, the movie is of the bad-LOL variety, rather than the bad-CRINGE type, like Van Helsing.

Strips of the German fairy tale are filleted and served as the prologue. Little Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods by their father, and they find their way to a house made of candy. The witch, wroth at their most impolite eating of her domicile, tries to fatten up Hansel for a bit of Boy-B-Q, but ends up becoming grilled herself when Gretel fights back and frees her brother. The shitty editing that shall rear its ugly head throughout the movie makes its proud first appearance here.

The opening credits track what happens next: over the years, the siblings become renowned witch hunters. Their next assignment becomes their greatest challenge: find the children abducted from a small village. Trope-tastically, there's an evil/incompetent sheriff complete with thuggish henchmen determined to get in the way; a wise old guide; and a damsel in distress with a secret. Anachronistically, there's shotguns, rapid-fire crossbows, insulin shots (?), a Gatling gun (??), a defibrillator (???), a geeky fanboy, and almost as much leather outfits as The Matrix.

Apart from those eye-rolling impossibilities, two things stand out in Hansel & Gretel: the gore and the ass-kicking. The tremendous amount of beatings dished--and received!--by the main characters is phenomenal. It's like the Bourne Identity but with a dash of X-Men: a brutal punch or tackle sends someone flying as though they were on wires. Which they are. Meanwhile, humans are dispatched with copious amounts of blood and spatter. Never let it be said that this twisting of a beloved children's tale flinched in the face of buckets of corn syrup, methyl paraben, and food coloring! Such brave.

Speaking of color, I was delighted to see the range of representation during the orgiastic witches' sabbath near the end of the movie. There was a Chinese opium den madam witch, a paraplegic witch, conjoined twins witches, transvestite witches, a frog witch, and so much more! Very diversity.

The leads comport themselves well, mostly by not giggling throughout the movie. Gretel (Gemma Arterton) gets probably more than her fair share of the blows intended to cause grievous bodily injury, but that's fine because she apparently has no internal organs or bones to be damaged -- all that ever happens are attractive facial cuts. As Hansel, Jeremy Renner is clearly comfortable playing the gruff and buff big brother with a slightly plot-affecting weakness. Plus, they're super adorable as devoted siblings. One does not get a Game of Thrones tingling when they smile at each other.

Famke Janssen returns to her roots as a supervillain. Alas, this time around no one meets their end between her thighs of steel (what a way to go!), but she is delightfully malevolent without chewing on every piece if scenery. She's evil yet elegant. Hilariously, the magnificent Zoƫ Bell is cast as "Tall Witch" -- she must not have been standing anywhere near the 6-foot-tall Xenia Onatopp.

If you think this is all just too weird, don't worry! Neither jarringly displaced words and weapons nor underdeveloped villains won't disrupt formula! The heroes must prevail!

Bottom line: Seriously, give it a try! Lower the volume and add your own audio track! I dare you to be even more ridiculous than this movie already is!

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