Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters is a watchable action fantasy, even if it veers on the trashy side. The film seems to be aiming for two different things and does not sit comfortably in either aspect as a result.
Having been lured to a candy-filled house as children, Hansel and Gretal manage to kill the witch who has imprisoned them. As adults, the brother and sister become bounty hunters who track down and kill witches. The pair are brought to a small village to find the culprit who has been kidnapping children…
Writer and director Tommy Wirkola attempts to inject new life into the Hansel and Gretal fairy tale. He does this by making them witch hunters and action stars. It is not dissimilar to last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. The children of the fairy tale have grown up and donned powerful weapons which they sling over their leather-clad shoulders.
The narrative of Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters is not exactly illuminating, but the pacing is good. The film features several archetypes of the fantasy genre, including the unrelenting villain, the ambiguous helper and the devoted love interest. The protagonists lack depth, but then the focus is on the action.
Wirkola’s film is strange in that it is period set, yet Hansel and Gretal appear overtly modern. They speak with American accents (unlike most of the cast who boast a Germanic lilt) and use conspicuously profane language. The accents are a little distracting and feed into the idea that the film is not certain of what it is aiming for. In its updating of a fairy tale it allows comparisons to Red Riding Hood, yet the language and violence suggest it is aimed at an older audience. However, it seems that the film would have had more appeal to a less mature audience.
The film features some very visceral deaths. Despite an abundance of gore, the CGI effects mean it never appears too authentic. The use of 3D is fine; it is not too distracting or gimmicky. The music is sometimes too abrupt, taking viewers out of certain scenes. The performances are adequate, with Jeremy Renner seeming to not take things too seriously. There is some humour, whilst the dialogue can be hokey.
Coming in at 88 minutes, Hansel and Gretal: Witch Hunters may not quite be successful, but never feels like a chore.