The Last Witch Hunter (2015)
Fear what is coming.
Action movies are fun, and most people could list off a decent few that contain Vin Diesel - be it his whole self or just his voice. There also isn't a whole ton of witch-based movies out there that a lot of folks will list off - I mean, top of my head I can really think of about 5, unless you count like the 12 version of Hansel and Gretel out there, and I practically do nothing but watch movies most the time. Still, this gives us a witch-focused Van Helsing staring Vin, so one would expect that it should at least deliver some fun during it's impressively medium (or short by today's standards) hour thirty run time. Grab your iron and start a fire, it's time to hunt witches.
Atop a giant plague tree, there sits the last great Witch Queen, who brought about a cursed plague to wipe out all of humanity from the face of the planet. A band of warriors and their church compatriot seek to do holy work and remove this blight from the lands by destroying the witch. After entering the tower, it's quickly on display how powerful the witch is, dispatching a good number of the warriors between her magic and her minions. One man steps forward to rise to the challenge, and with his flaming sword of witch-slaying, he manages to best her at the cost of what will most likely be his own life - and after losing everything he had (presumably to witches) he is rather at piece with this idea as long as the witch goes with him. The witch has other plans, however, and before she can expire curses the warrior with eternal life to rob him of his peace.
A long time passes, and we jump to modern times with a distinctly less bearded version of our warrior on a plane. An unnatural storm has broken out outside of the plane, and he uses some fancy little techniques to track down the witch who turns out is unknowingly causing the storm. He gets from her the artifacts causing the trouble and tells her to enjoy her trip in NY. We are then greeted with some narration to get us up to speed - how he works for a branch of the church essentially that deals with human-witch affairs and keeping the peace, using his eternal curse as a form of becoming the ultimate weapon against those who would use magic for wrong doing or (specifically) against humans. Of course, things have changed since his witch-stabbing days, and instead the magically inclined criminals are brought before a special jury of their own kind and incarcerated into a sort of "witch prison" deep in the dark grounds. Things start to get out of hand when the man who our hero works with is attacked by witches however, and it turns out that rather than being killed he has been cursed.
After some sleuthing our hero deduces he needs to search his memories for the answer of these witches goals. He swings by a witches bar to order up one memory potion, only to be interrupted by the culprit behind his friend's curse. Things look pretty dire, but he gets saved by our would-be heroine type witch, to which he repays the favor in kind when she is attacked at her home by dark magic. The two work together to uncover the secret from his past needed to solve this mystery - that in fact the witch queen's heart had not been destroyed, and these evil doers plan on resurrecting her! Worse still, he knows that should she be brought back the entire human race is in danger of being wiped out by a new plague! Will he be able to defeat the evil-doers before they bring her back, and if not can he stop the queen before she obliterates all mankind in a swarm of bug-born death?
I understand the desire to bring the movie into the present, and it works well enough. My biggest complaint in that regard is that everything looked so much more cool and epic in scale in the past scenes shown at the beginning. Our heroes all geared up with axes and iron, clad in armor and ready to slay some witches for their crimes against humanity certainly being a more impressive sight to behold than people meandering around in every-day modern attire with some magic here and there and maybe a knife. I should elaborate that this isn't really a problem with the plot or the effects or anything of that sort, it just feels like the movie starts off at 11 than never quite gets back to it as it goes.
Plot works well enough, and it's nice that most things brought up don't end up being a one time sort of thing - after confiscating the artifacts from the plane, they show up again in the final battle, and likewise with his sword. There is a bit of... unexplained idiocy amongst the villains for the most part, wherein they do things as though it might injure or kill or hero even though he is immortal. I suppose this can be written off as simply word doesn't get around (since the organization keeps getting him new identities), yet you would expect the main villain who knows of him and is trying to bring back the queen would know that little detail. Beyond that, it's interesting enough to see the witch and the hunter trading jobs saving each other and working together, and a decent enough time is used to give them some form of character - even if it might feel a little rushed or cliched.
Actors do a pretty decent job of their roles here, and there's some unexpected actors in there I didn't realize would be in it. Effects work is pretty well done, with the occasional effect that might look a bit worse for wear than others. Particularly, some of the "mundane" elements like the lights in the magic bar are quite pretty, or the slight cat-like reflection added to the witches eyes when magic is being used adds a little extra without being over-the-top (like fire coming from the eyeballs or something). Audio seems fine enough, although the only real stand-out song happens to be a cover of "Paint It Black" that plays over the end credits - although that's more just because I like the original than I was necessarily impressed with the cover.
Overall, it starts off feeling very much like something a person might experience during a Dungeons and Dragons game - of which I hear that the character is based to some extent on an old character Diesel has made during one such game he played - and the entire thing flows relatively well. Some might complain a little about lack of details causing some of the characters to not be as fleshed out - or that some characters feel as though you are just expected to know them, much as you would in a buddy cop movie when suddenly they go to "an old friend" to get help. I'm not bothered so much by that in this movie, as it's handled in manners where the ones that are primarily important to the plot are the ones given the most focus, and that's really what you need in the movie. It's a fun little action flick, and not a huge cost of time, so I'd say it's easy enough to recommend it if a joke here or there and some witch-hunting sounds interesting enough for at least a rental. Potential buyers may want to rent it first, as although it's a fun movie I can't particularly say it's any better than a plethora of other movies out there - just don't let that be misunderstood as me saying it's bad, as it's more just average.