The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

(Netflix Streaming, June 2016) This is probably the third movie review that I preface with “Poor Vin Diesel”, but here we go again: Poor Vin Diesel. He’s a charismatic actor, with more range than people are willing to concede. Massive crowd pleaser with the Fast and Furious series, but whenever he’s tried to do something else, success has eluded him. His insistence at reviving the Riddick series is admirable but futile given the results. The Last Witch Hunter, influenced by his own enthusiasm for role-playing campaigns, is obviously made to be the first in a franchise … but whatever strengths it has can’t quite manage to make it stand out at a time when urban fantasies can be bought by the dozen from the DVD bargain bin. It does start out promisingly, though: Featuring an immortal victim of witch magic backed by the Catholic Church and dabbling in modern magic, The Last Witch Hunter does have a spark of originality and interest to it. New York becomes (again, but still) an arena for good-versus-evil, and some of the individual world-building elements have some charm. But as fantasy watchers have come to expect, original world building usually takes a back seat to dull plot mechanics as the movie advances, and this film is no exception: By the time a solidly average third act rolls by, we’ve forgotten nearly anything that was good and unusual about the first thirty minutes of the film. Vin Diesel is actually quite good in the lead role, with Rose Leslie being fine as the heroine and Elijah Woods as well as Michael Caine giving decent supporting performances. Still, Diesel looking tough and grim isn’t quite enough to rescue The Last Witch Hunter from mediocrity, and so it fades in the noise of so many urban fantasy movies all following the same narrative pattern. See it if you like Diesel (and who doesn’t?) but otherwise, this is as far from an essential film as it’s possible to be.

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