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REVIEW: 'Last Witch Hunter' lacks magic

RICK BENTLEY
YorkDispatch

Here's a first: "The Last Witch Hunter" manages to be both overly complicated and painfully predictable at the same time.

The lame plot has acting's answer to drywall, Vin Diesel, playing the immortal witch hunter Kaulder. Because of a truce forged years ago with the witches, it doesn't seem like he's had a lot to do except seduce flight attendants over the past few centuries.

That changes when his Dolan (Michael Caine), the member of a secret order who is writing Kaulder's long-running biography, is attacked. Kaulder gets mad. At least it's suggested he's mad. There's no way of knowing with Diesel's limited acting skills.

Kaulder begins his quest to stop a wicked witch who wants to revive the Witch Queen. She's the creature responsible for the Black Death that killed millions in the 1300s. It was Kaulder who stopped the Witch Queen and became immortal centuries ago.

This isn't a one-man job. Kaulder gets aid from a dream walker witch (Rose Leslie) and his new biographer (Elijah Wood).

Screenwriters Cory Goodman, Matt Sazma and Burk Sharpless have cobbled together ideas from "Game of Thrones," "The Da Vinci Code," "Highlander," "Scooby-Doo" and "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" to create a plot that tries to twist and turn its way to shocking moments. When you can see those moments coming from a mile away, they tend to loose all their strength.

The other major problem is that the little surprise that could have been delivered through the overly complicated dialogue gets lost in the mumbled acting of Vin Diesel. What ever happened to the dark and brooding evil fighters who said very little?

"The Last Witch Hunter" keeps coming to a dead halt as one of the characters tries to explain what's going on. All the explanation does is muddy and already muddled story line. And, it makes the movie's pacing go from slow to plodding to comatose. The film's best actor, Michael Caine, is lost to the film because of a plot twist leaving Wood to pick up the slack.

Some of the special effect work isn't bad and Leslie turns in a valiant effort to make her character interesting. It's just that both get tripped up by the uninspired writing and Diesel's lack of acting skills.

He's fine when his main direction is to drive a car really fast. But force Diesel into providing an explanation of what is happening or — heaven forbid — have to show any emotion and the result is a confusing and emotionless mess.

"The Last Witch Hunter" could have worked if the script had been rewritten to create more surprises, Diesel had been replaced by a better actor, the pacing by director Breck Eisner not been so painfully slow and the supporting cast been either better or used better.

At least it isn't in 3D.