Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
You know the story, right?  Or at least I hope you do because I'm kind of shaky on it because it's been a long time.  But Hansel and Gretel, twins I think, lost in the wood, bread crumbs to get home, house made of candy, evil witch fattening them up because nothing says 'children's fable' like cannibalism, with these two kids eventually slaughtering the bitch.  That's how it went down, right?  But what about the rest of the story?  When these two grow up and swear undying and everlasting revenge on the rest of those witches who would do them harm?   It's right here, in writer / director Tommy Wirkola's wildly erratic, wildly uneven action / comedy / adventure epic 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters'.

We catch up with Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as they ride into town as the crazed sheriff (Peter Stromare) was about to burn up the fair maiden Mina (Phila Viitala) for the crime of witchcraft.  We could mention that Hansel looked more like Gretel's dad than her brother, but we're not gonna mention that.  Regardless, Hansel and Gretel are kind of experts when it comes to witches and stuff and they have declared this woman to be alright.  Yay.  But the reason that these two are in town in the first place is to find the missing kids of this town, kids whose pictures are stenciled on milk bottles.  That's some high comedy right there. 

So Hansel and Gretel get down to tracking down witches, and recognize that these two are to Witch Hunting what Abu Ghraid is to terrorism as witch torture is the order of the day.  Eventually brother and sister figure out something big is going down with the witches, or they didn't so much figure it out but the head witch Muriel (Famke Jannsen) just shows up causing a ruckus, burning down stuff and blowing people's heads clean off, and told them something big is going down.  She's bad news.  And her plan is even worst news for the captured children of this town, both Hansel and Gretel, and society at large if this plan of Muriel's comes close to working.  Hopefully they can stop her.  Or not.  It don't make us no never mind either way it goes. 
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Years ago, my friends, I saw a bike racing movie named 'Torque' and while this 'Torque' was universally panned as an awful movie, I often hold up 'Torque' as to what a bad movie can be.  The people who make these movies aren't idiots, and they know once they get into the screening room when they have a turd on their hands and as such they will try to fix it.  'Torque' got cut down to the bone, keeping only the action and hot chicks and while watching it, right before I was about to declare it garbage, it went off.  Thus at around 78 minutes long making it awesome.  For exhibit two of this drastic trimming phenomenon I present to you 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters'.  

Allow me to qualify this by saying that 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is no 'Torque', and while that might sound damning, we still must be truthful here in these pages.  Similar to 'Torque', 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is extremely brief, running at around eighty minutes long, including a very lengthy opening credits sequence, and I'm fairly certain that team Wirkola shot a lot more than 80 minutes worth of hi-def video for this movie.  Thus we can rest assured that this movie was cut down to the bone because had this movie been thirty seconds longer it probably would've been damn near unbearable. 

In these eighty minutes what we are left with is the sketching of some kind of rudimentary narrative, a little skin, plenty of violence and lots of CGI action and as such this movie comes by its 'R' rating quite honestly.  We here at the FCU don't have a problem with this and for the most part we appreciate it.  Also in these eighty minutes we have a movie that can't settle on its style, cannot pinpoint its tone, and appears to have no roadmap on the kind of movie it wants to deliver to its audience.

Is it a comedy?  Kind of starts off that way, but they let that go really quick.  Is it a horror movie?  There were lots of horrible images… bodies exploding, head crushing, head splitting, heads meeting grisly ends via the wrong end of shotguns, but gore doesn't make horror.  Is it an action movie?  This is pretty what 'Hansel and Gretel' settled on, and while this action was fast and furious and kinetic, it was so fast and furious and kinetic that it was kind of difficult to gage exactly what was going on in this fast and furious and kinetic action to truly enjoy it.  Faster action isn't always better action.  And another minor quibble, if you're going to put someone who looks like Gemma Arterton in your movie and then dress her in tight black leather pants, you might want to pull the camera back a bit.  You see, as a fashion maven, I'd like to see how those pants fit just in case I wanted to purchase a few pairs for close of friends of mine.  That's the only reason.  Really.

But similar to 'Torque', 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' did have the good sense to get out of town while the getting was good.  It takes up very little of your day and the editors did the best they could to only include what they thought was awesome and discard the mundane… like style, character development, heavy plot points and drama.  At 81 minutes, that probably doesn't work.  At 80 minutes, it almost does.
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