Every year we get a few movies like this. Big actor tries their luck with an effects-heavy action adventure film with a supernatural twist. We’ve gotten gems like Van Helsing, I, Frankenstein, Hansel and Gretel, and Seventh Son. None of these are particularly good, so I was hesitant heading into the theater for this one.
Vin Diesel stars as Kaulder, a warrior from over 800 years ago who was cursed with immortality by a witch. He now walks the streets of modern day, on a mission to imprison or kill witches that take advantage of black magic. He’s assisted by an order of priests (most notably Michael Caine and Elijah Wood) and a friendly witch he meets (played by Ygritte from Game of Thrones, Rose Leslie).
As a standard CGI-heavy action film, this movie succeeds in a few areas that most falter in. Firstly, the story is compelling and surprisingly simple. Usually these movies have to start with a few scrolling pages of exposition, telling you who the bad guy is, about some war that’s been going on for centuries, and why our hero is a hero. Instead, we see Vin Diesel in a flashback. It’s simple, with very little info given. They crawl into the hive of a witch and we see the curse get placed on him. And then we cut to modern day. It’s beautifully and refreshingly simple.
Vin Diesel also works as our hero, though he’s not too different from other incarnations of Vin that we’ve seen. As the movie progresses and his backstory gets fleshed out a bit, he does get more room to flex his acting chops, showcasing that our hero is alone and troubled. He has a few moments of subtlety that I really appreciated.
Overall the movie was just really fun. Simple? Yes. But fun still, including a few big action set pieces, some cool fights, and some really interesting design choices, for how these witch spells manifest in a live action movie.
What doesn’t work?
While the movie’s fun, it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well.
Vin Diesel is likeable but it’s not a huge stretch for him. The action scenes are fun but we don’t see anything we haven’t already seen. The creature designs are interesting but some bad CGI keep them from reaching their full potential. For example, why is the witch queen in the film an entirely CGI monster? It’s just a woman, I would’ve appreciated practical effects for something that simple.
This movie is just average in a lot of ways but it does succeed in this horror action genre, where so many other films are completely terrible.
You might assume this movie is going to be horrible. Well, it’s not. It’s also not going to win any Oscars. So if you like action / fantasy / horror movies like this, you’ll likely have at least a decent time. Good character designs and a fun hero make this film enjoyable, while bad CGI drag down its big action scenes. Probably not worth seeing in theaters, but for sure check it out when it inevitably comes to Netflix.