x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a disposable fairy tale ride

This cross-genre film flounders between comedy and horror without doing justice to either.

Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner are neither interesting nor funny as the title characters. David Appleby / AP Photo
Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner are neither interesting nor funny as the title characters. David Appleby / AP Photo

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Director: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton
**

Tommy Wirkola, the director of the cult Nazi zombies comedy Dead Snow, crosses genres again, this time for Hollywood with the fairy tale horror Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

The film takes place years after Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) were abandoned by their parents and killed a villainous witch who captured them. The siblings have gained a reputation as fearsome witch hunters. Hired by a small town to investigate witch-related child disappearances, the pair discover these kidnappings lead to a deadly gathering of dark magic that will put the world in danger and uncover the secrets of their past.

For the majority of its blood-soaked running time, the film has very little idea of what it is trying to achieve; it's too stern and violent to be an all-out spoof, and too ridiculous to be an earnest action-fantasy. The script trots along without much character development (our heroes are tough, acrobatic killers fond of the occasional quip but that's about as much variety as we get) and each scene is filled with over-the-top dialogue and dizzying mid-air fight sequences.

All of this is fun in spots but doesn't do anything to get the audience invested in what little story there is. Neither does this film contain the ludicrous charm of the similarly themed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. With this fundamental flaw, problems such as accents (which seem to be completely arbitrary) and anachronisms (a stylised Taser despite electricity having not been discovered yet) seem quite remote.

On the plus side, taken as a disposable ride through a twisted fairy tale, it has its moments, making sure no head-splatting kill passes without a one-liner to seal the deal.

Renner and Arterton are two of the more reliable stars working in Hollywood today, and their on-screen presence as a team makes for a compelling image. Sadly, the coarse language makes the characters neither interesting nor funny, and without decent dialogue or chemistry (well, they are related) to fall back on, our two stars are reliant on their charm alone. Peter Stormare rants and raves as a village sheriff suspicious of the duo, while Famke Janssen turns the camp factor up to 11 as the main villain, a dark witch named Muriel.

For many, the knowing tone and occasionally thrilling 3D action will be enough to suffice. However, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters flounders between comedy and horror without doing justice to either genre.