This is an endearing look into the mind of Vin Diesel.
What you are watching here is, literally, an on screen adaptation of his Dungeons and Dragons avatar. Diesel, it turns out, is a huge D&D fan. The film had it’s genesis in his meeting with writer and fellow enthusiast Cory Goodman.
The story opens in the olden times when everyone was English except Vin Diesel. Bearded Vin Diesel (who’s name is Kaulder) kills an evil witch queen but not before she curses him to eternal life after seeing a desire for death in his eyes. This backfires. We cut to modern times to find him loving immortality, playing a kind of louche, supernatural James Bond. Michael Caine plays his Alfred. Someone kills his Alfred and this sets off a chain of events that sees Diesel teaming up with a witch by the name of Chloe (Rose Leslie). Elijah Wood is in there too, somewhere, as a jittery priest sidekick.
Even in the Fast and Furious movies Vin Diesel is not a cool badass. He stares out from his brick shithouse physique with soft cow eyes. Here, when we see the character’s life in New York we are meant to think a pad full of samurai armour and foosball tables is cool. It’s like a fourteen year old boy’s version of where a cool guy hangs out. Do you honestly want to live vicariously through Vin Diesel? He is also, to put it mildly, not an actor who disappears into a role. When you see him with a beard you think ‘Oh, Vin Diesel in a beard’. This all leads to the impression that you’re watching little more than him playing out his long held fantasy.
Is that fantasy entertaining for us? Despite having a refreshingly pro witch-hunt stance it’s very dull. Even with an awful lot of nonsense exposition the rules stay unclear and at many times the storytelling feels completely muddled. ‘What can witches do?’ isn’t something they think necessary to tell us. Chloe, for example, despite being a witch, is amazed by witchcraft at one point. The lengthy, CGI reliant action scenes are edited and choreographed in a boringly frantic way. There are some mildly diverting bits of production design but this is mostly a charm vacuum that wastes half its runtime on a mystery that few people will care about.
With more willingness to embrace its inner goofball this could have been the best Vin Diesel led fantasy Ghostbusters-esque vehicle possible. This is dumb as a bag of hammers but more importantly it’s a dumb story told without wit. One last example of the writing in this movie; On finding a child being lured to a cursed tree of gummy bears Kaulder asks ‘Didn’t your mother ever warn you not to eat candy from trees?’ No, Vin Diesel, because that’s not a problem people face in reality.
Earnestness can sometimes raise something from unwatchable to the level of something you could kill time with on a plane if you don’t have a book or interesting travelling companion. The Last Witch Hunter manages that. This may be a bad movie but it is sincerely bad and that’s oddly charming.
The Last Witch Hunter is in cinemas on Friday 23rd October. Check out the trailer below.
Featured image credit: movieweb.com