Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann 15A cert, general release, 88 min

Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann 15A cert, general release, 88 min

Fri, Mar 1, 2013, 00:00

Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann 15A cert, general release, 88 min

It’s short. We’ll give it that. There’s no reason in the world for this not to be good, clean, trashy fun. A daft steampunk romp from proven Norwegian schlock merchant Tommy Wirkola, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is unencumbered by the earnestness of Snow White and the Huntsman or, indeed, its own folkloric origins.

Following on from Paul WS Anderson’s Three Musketeers, the screenplay never dodges an anachronism that it can thrust into its leather-corseted cleavage until it makes motorboat noises. This is a world where Hansel injects insulin for Diabetes Type 2 and Gretel-obsessed fanboys collect newspaper clippings and recount heroic deeds in the same drone normally reversed for “You know when Hulk clobbers Loki?”

Perhaps we should excuse the film’s slippery grasp of history under its steampunk remit. But Hansel and Gretel, despite packing some unlikely firepower in their armoury, are only streampunk in the way that a themed bachelorette party or high school prom might be. The musak equivalent of thrash metal (the kind they’ll use in the elevators of the future) punctuates their ongoing battle against witchcraft. Their various stand-offs always seem to culminate in an outrageous cheat; they wake up having been rescued by a troll or a white witch or a passer-by.

If you really must know Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters reimagines the 1812 Brothers Grimm tale as a superhero origins story. As adults, the siblings are witch-killing bounty hunters, played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Their latest assignment, in the maggoty, vaguely medieval town of Augsburg, sees the pair rooting out Famke Janssen’s coven before “the blood of 12 moons does blah blah blah”. “Hello Gretel, famous Witch Hunter,” cackles Janssen. Frankly, we’re glad of the reminder. In a film defined by cheesy SFX and ludicrous plotting, the worst thing about Hansel and Gretel is Hansel and Gretel.

Renner’s part is so lazily written that he’s twice required to say: “You talk too much”. Hawkeye and the character-shaped void at the centre of The Bourne Legacy were complex by comparison. Poor Arterton has even less to do.

The violence against crappy- looking witches comes with plenty of splatter but little by way of comic innovation. And the pared- down dialogue is so geared toward easy translation and foreign markets that you wonder why they didn’t just shoot the film in a Sino- Russian-Spanglish hybrid dialect.

There’s no reason in the world for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters not to be good, clean, trashy fun. But it isn’t.

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