[Screen It]


(2013) (Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton) (R)

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Horror/Action: Sibling bounty hunters who kill witches for a living try to stop an evil sorceress and her nefarious plan to empower herself and their kind even more.
Hansel (JEREMY RENNER) and Gretel (GEMMA ARTERTON) are medieval era siblings who've grown up together following the murders of their parents. Having encountered a particularly nasty witch in their childhood and considering their parents were killed due to witch-related activity, the two have become professional bounty hunters who find and kill witches for others. Their latest assignment is in Oxford where the local mayor is obviously concerned about the abduction of many children there.

Sheriff Berringer (PETER STORMARE) is on the case and about to kill a local woman, Mina (PIHLA VIITALA), for reportedly being a witch, but the siblings put an end to that and free the woman, much to the sheriff's displeasure. But they have a big fan in young Ben (THOMAS MANN) who knows most everything about them and their exploits, and he comes in handy later, which also holds true for Edward (DEREK MEARS), an immense troll who serves witches.

Among them is Muriel (FAMKE JANSSEN), an extremely powerful sorceress who plans to use the upcoming blood moon to sacrifice 12 kids and the heart of a white witch to make her own kind pretty much invincible. With time running out, Hansel and Gretel do what they can to find and rescue the kids and stop her and her nefarious plan.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics (or are done so late the night before they open) is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

The last time I paid any real attention to Hansel and Gretel -- the appetizing kids to a hungry witch in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale sporting their name -- it was in the old Looney Tunes cartoon "Bewitched Bunny" where Bugs Bunny dealt with the ravenous Witch Hazel in his own unique way. Now they're appearing -- sans the rabbit and with a menacing witch replacing the goofy cartoon one -- in the decidedly R-rated, live-action horror/action pic, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters."

Like their presidential predecessor in last year's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer," they've grown up to become professional bounty hunters desirous of killing supernatural troublemakers. It's one of those high concept ideas that probably sounded good to script readers, producers and studio folk with green light approval, but then fails to live up to any lofty expectations. Not shown to reviewers until two hours before debuting to the public, the film feels like a rip-off of those gloomy "Underworld" movies, what with the decidedly contemporary fighting styles and its main protagonists (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) similarly feeling out of place for this period film.

Fairly boring despite the often frenetic action and feeling long and tedious despite the less than 90 minute runtime (including credits), the film ends with the impression that they intend to make more. Unless this one makes the sort of bucks those Kate Beckinsale flicks do, it's highly unlikely. Of course, they could always introduce that rascally rabbit to make things more interesting. As it stands, "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed January 24, 2013 / Posted January 25, 2013

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