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Season of the Witch – DVD Review

Season of the Witch

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

FOR every great Nicolas Cage role of late, there seems to be a bad or indifferent one waiting in the wings.

Hence, having mesmerised with his 2010 one-two of Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant, he surrounded them with the average to bad likes of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Drive Angry and Season of the Witch.

The latter actually plays better to DVD audiences, in spite of its big screen values.
Directed by Dominic Sena, who previously worked with Cage on Gone in 60 Seconds, the film boasts an all-star cast and an epic sense of grandeur, yet its sometimes shoddily put together and feels every inch the type of movie that spent longer than necessary in production (with cinematic release dates that constantly got pushed back).

And yet, for all of its obvious faults (and there are many), it retains a watchable quality reserved for all the best ‘so bad they’re good’ guilty pleasures.

Cage plays Behmen, a heroic knight who, after years of warfare in God’s name during The Crusades, deserts in search of a better life with closest aide Felson (Ron Perlman) for company.

As soon as they get back to their homeland, however, they find a place shattered by the Black Death and apprehended by officials who force them to embark upon a dangerous mission to avoid prison and death for desertion.

Their task involves escorting a prisoner of the church for trial and inevitable execution… a woman accused of being a witch, who is thought to be responsible for the Plague. Fearing her to be a scapegoat, Behmen agrees to accompany her but finds the ensuing journey to be a treacherous one involving supernatural powers, sheer-walled gorges and wolf-infested forests.

Sena’s film really ought to have been a lot better than it is, especially given the quality of the supporting cast.

Aside from Perlman (brilliantly dead-pan, as usual, as Felson), there’s Claire Foy as the possible witch (suitably ambiguous), Stephen Graham as a guide (curiously restrained and under-used), Christopher Lee (as a Plague ravished leader) and Robert Sheehan (as a young protégé).

But all are let down by Bragi F Schut’s flat script (which refuses to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the history or the ambiguity surrounding Foy’s character) and some ordinary direction that feels and looks hopelessly computer enhanced.

What makes Season of the Witch watchable is the chemistry between Cage and Perlman, as well as the early sense of traditional men on a mission adventure. And it’s for that reason that it works better on DVD than in cinemas, where the CGI enhanced backdrops are somehow less pronounced.

Had Sena and company focused on this, and refrained from another CGI heavy post-apocalyptic showdown involving zombie monks and devil-like creatures, he might have made things more memorable. As things stand, Season of the Witch rates as a missed opportunity and another Cage curiosity piece.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 95mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 27, 2011