Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala. (2013, R, 88 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 1, 2013
In this retooling of the original Brothers Grimm tale, the candy-loving kid sibs survive a witch attack to become professional assassins. The title may be on the nose, but the tone is hopelessly confused. Is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a comedy? The opening credits, which list Funny or Die founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as producers, point in that direction, but Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper’s script forgoes fresh humor for clunking wannabe-catchphrases that Renner and Arterton, as the titular hunters, deliver as if they’re acting in one long trailer. The film might plausibly be filed under horror – Wirkola previously directed the Norwegian Nazi-zombie picture Dead Snow – but while it is indeed squishy with spattering brains and other sundry occasions for gore, the scares are few and far between, and its interest in the occult is perfunctory at best. An early chase sequence, wherein Hansel hitches to a fleeing witch as if she were an airborne motorboat pulling him on skis, fleetingly raises hopes for inspired action, but that drops away for the same battering-ram-to-the-senses, hand-to-hand combat choreography of every other B-movie actioner currently clogging multiplexes. In his English-language debut, Wirkola dabbles in everything but commits to nothing, making for an unmemorable brew best left untasted.