In 2009, writer/director by Tommy Wirkola gained a cult following with his Zombie splatter film “Dead Snow”. Hollywood took notice and he was awarded with a larger budget and bigger stars for his follow up film “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”. The film chronicles the fairytale brother and sister duo after they escaped the gingerbread house and started hunting down witches. Originally supposed to be released in 2012, the film was pushed back to a January 2013 release in hopes of generating more buzz on Jeremy Renner’s rising star. When the film was complete, Renner had yet to appear in last year’s films “The Avengers” and “The Bourne Legacy”. A good strategy, if the standard TV trailers did not make this movie look worse than it actually is.
I have to be honest. I went into this movie expecting it to be terrible. Personally I do not have much faith in Renner (Hansel) as a leading man. I know he is somewhat hot right now but to me he is best as a supporting role. I also have only seen Gemma Arterton (Gretel) in “Clash of the Titans” (2010) where she was nothing more than a pretty face in that lack luster film. Perhaps it was because of such low expectations that together they worked. They were both “bad ass” as the brother sister bounty hunters. Not spectacular performances or anything but easily entertaining and likeable performances.
The story follows the duo as they attempt to hunt down some missing children form a small village that is troubled by witches. Famke Janssen (Taken 2) leads the supporting cast as Leader of the witches who is trying to cast a spell that will make the witches stronger than ever. The three clash it out and that is basically the story.
From a stylistic standpoint fans of Wirkola’s films will not be disappointed. The dark and grim fairytale world he creates is charming and helps us fall into the fantasy. Furthermore this film has several gruesome scenes that are shockingly comical in the way they are over the top. At no point do they feel unnecessary for shock value, but rather they happen in a way that seems normal and plausible in the world we are shown on film. Additionally the pacing of this film is fast. There was not a dull moment as the 88 minute run time is one action or story driven transition to the next. Together these aspects help the film feel fun, lighthearted and surprisingly entertaining. Also the 3D effects help the film and do not seem distracting.
The finished product accomplishes something that other fast paced ridiculous action flicks do not. It keeps it simple. Tommy Wirkola shows his talent by keeping various stylistic factors and pacing together in a way that makes the simplistic story complete. Often times in films like this there comes a point where your suspended disbelief is tested beyond its limits. But that is not the case here. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters delivers an entertaining fast paced movie that the TV previews do not to justice. If you are a fan of zombies, vampires, witches or any other supernatural type characters then you will not want to miss this film.
3.5 stars out of 5