Review: Season Of The Witch

(MA15+) ***

Director: Dominic Sena.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan.

UNIVERSALLY panned, frequently delayed and almost hidden from our screens in Australia, you'd be right in fearing this was another of those strange, forgettable additions to Nic Cage's resume.

Thankfully, it's not too bad. I may be in the minority of critics to think so, but Season Of The Witch is an enjoyable medieval thriller that's well-made in spite of some moments of silliness.

Cage and Perlman star as Behmen and Felson, two knights who desert the crusades, unhappy with the number of innocent women and children being slaughtered in the name of their god.

On their journey home, they discover a plague has descended upon the land, with the blame levelled at a woman (Foy) who is accused of being a witch.

In exchange for not being executed for desertion, Behmen and Felson agree to transport the witch to a monastery, where a ritual can be performed to undo her plague.

Most of Season Of The Witch is simple and straight-forward - it's like a Dark Ages take on 3.10 To Yuma or Midnight Run, where the transportation of a prisoner and the obstacles along the way is the main focus.

Intelligently it takes time to ask a few questions about faith while pointing out the inherent evil of the old "She's a witch! Burn her!" system so beloved by the church of the time, and the posse of protectors, comprising a monk, a guard, a conman, a youngster and the two knights is a nice mix, although it's one that's not fully explored.

Behmen and Felson are well fleshed out characters, but their banter and mindsets seem anachronistic, not to mention the horrid American accents that stick out like sore thumbs all through the movie, even from Graham (who's actually English). It's like watching Costner play Robin Hood all over again, or Tom Cruise as a German in Valkyrie. It really grates.

There are a few obvious problems with the plot and its finale, and some of the performances aren't great, but generally it rolls along nicely, has a good atmosphere and sense of tension to it, looks pretty good, and Perlman provides a bit of humour along the way.

It's not going to blow your mind, but for a lazy Saturday afternoon DVD this winter, it's certainly better than a lot stuff out there.

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