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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Movie Review

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) movie poster Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Theatrical Release: January 25, 2013 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Tommy Wirkola

Cast: Jeremy Renner (Hansel), Gemma Arterton (Gretel), Famke Janssen (Muriel), Pihla Viitala (Mina), Derek Mears (Edward), Robin Atkin Downes (voice of Edward), Ingrid Bolsψ Berdal (Horned Witch), Joanna Kulig (Red Haired Witch), Thomas Mann (Ben), Peter Stormare (Sheriff Berringer), Bjψrn Sundquist (Jackson), Rainer Bock (Mayor Engelman), Thomas Scharff (Father), Kathrin Kόhnel (Adrianna), Cedric Eich (Young Hansel), Alea Sophia Boudodimos (Young Gretel)

Preorder Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D Combo • Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD

Shortly before it was scheduled to open in theaters last March, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was delayed to the release date it realizes today. Such a move can't be construed as especially surprising or discouraging.
Sure, January is considered a dumping ground for movie studios, a refuge for films that don't have a shot of generating good word of mouth or having a leggy run. But once again, that title is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. If that doesn't sound like a January movie, what does?!

The English language debut of Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola, who got a little bit of notice for his gruesome 2009 zombie Nazi horror comedy Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel opens with a prologue presenting the fairy tale made famous by the Brothers Grimm. Abandoned by their parents, the two young siblings wander into the woods and visit a house made of candy. Inside, of course, is a nasty witch with every intention to eat the kids. Hansel and Gretel fight back, burning their unsightly captor. Thus, they have their subtitular calling.

Gemma Arterton plays Gretel and Jeremy Renner is Hansel in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Jumping ahead many years and many kills, the film finds Hansel (now Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) all grown up and still taking pleasure in having evil witches meet a bloody end. The mayor (Rainer Bock) of a small town with a disconcertingly dwindling population of children brings in the seasoned, fabled witch hunters. Hansel and Gretel save the life of a woman erroneously accused of witchcraft who is about to be burned at the stake. These are professionals with scruples, who won't allow accusations alone to warrant death.

Though attracted by the rich payout offered by Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare, weird as always), no one else really stands a chance against the witches behind the children's disappearance. Hansel and Gretel come equipped with not only the best technology around, they also have the added bonus of being largely invincible to witches' magic. That immunity is a clue to their mysterious past, with which they come to terms beginning on a visit to their childhood home.

Muriel (Famke Janssen) knows a thing or two about missing children. Disapproving of the witch-killing siblings, Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) repeatedly gets his nose hurt.

But Hansel & Gretel is less about self-discovery and more about killing witches. The main target, Muriel (Famke Janssen), is a powerful one able to change her appearance and get inside her opponents' heads. She and her associate witches wreak their havoc, while Hansel and Gretel attempt to counter-attack, with help from Hansel's new love interest (that falsely accused witch played by Finnish actress Pihla Viitala), the siblings' starstruck young fan Ben (Thomas Mann),
and a large, discerning troll named Edward (CGI based on Derek Mears performance and voiced by Robin Atkin Downes).

Hansel & Gretel is what its marketing suggests it is: an original R-rated action film using a familiar fairy tale as springboard. There is a lot of bloody violence, a significant amount of profanity, and a flash of nudity. The film is fast-moving. Its action is not overextended and played with a sense of humor. The story is something of a forgivable mess. Renner and Arterton give their heroes believable toughness and some appeal.

This is obviously lightweight entertainment destined for critical scorn. But it is January; what else would it be? At least it doesn't arrive with the pretensions and pandering of underwhelming recent fairy tale twists like Snow White and the Huntsman and Red Riding Hood. While you expect a bad movie and you get one, Hansel & Gretel knows that much and accordingly minimizes the harm. It even has the decency to use IMAX 3D not to assault the senses but to embrace its considerable camp value.

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Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Zero Dark Thirty • Django Unchained • Gangster Squad • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Jeremy Renner: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol • 28 Weeks Later • Thor
Gemma Arterton: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time • The Disappearance of Alice Creed | Famke Janssen: The Faculty
Peter Stormare: The Brothers Grimm • Dylan Dog: Dead of Night • The Big Lebowski • Armageddon • Premonition
Red Riding Hood • Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season • The Hunger Games • Season of the Witch • Outpost: Black Sun

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Reviewed January 25, 2013.



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