Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: Rated “R” (88 Minutes)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner, Famke Janssen, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, the two cute kids who went off into the woods leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs (or stones) behind eventually discovering a house made completely out of candy, only to discover that it was the house of a witch? Well, prepare for a modern-day retcon, steampunk mashup, and update to this ages-old tale. As we look in on these two kids, the story essentially starts out the same, they are brought out into the woods and left there by their day (the reason he does this has changed, only we don’t discover that ‘til much later in the film). While they still find the candy house belonging to the witch, they wind up dispatching her with extreme prejudice, and now it is 15 years after the incident with the gingerbread house, and Hansel and Gretel (Renner and Arterton) have evolved into witch-killing bounty hunters.
After amassing a very impressive kill ration of witches, they are called into a particular village which is experiencing a large amount of child abductions (so much so that the images of the missing children are pasted on milk bottles). The town’s sheriff (Stormare) is a mean muther trucker who wants to kill Mina (Pihla Viitala) a suspected witch but is prevented from doing so by Hansel & Gretel who have been hired by the town’s mayor to find the kids. Needless to say, the Sheriff is none too pleased about this and expresses his displeasure at them usurping his authority. This nets him a head-butt from Gretel (who in spite of the fact that Renner has previously logged screen time as both the new Jason Borne, and the Avenger Hawkeye) is really the badder of the two kids (unavoidable aside, it is a both a bit jarring and slightly comedic to see Renner getting slapped around so seriously in this film).
Anyways, the film really manages to completely pull off the anachronistic, steampunk, technology-bending aspect to the proceedings as Hansel and Gretel, not only carry some wicked-looking guns, but very mid-tech crossbows, Gatling guns, shredder bullets, and even a hand-cranked taser (totally wicked cool), as part of their personal arsenal (the the flip-open, telescoping rifle was also pretty cool). Overall the film’s effects are very cool (going old-school and opting for props and puppetry over high-end CGI), and the story is light-hearted enough for the cast to truly have fun with their roles (Janssen, the former (and perhaps future?) X-Man Jean Grey, completely throws herself into the role of the bad witch). Oh yeah, and there is nearly as much gleeful blood-splurting gore as in Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Ultimately, the film holds up quite well, delivering solid fun, genuine entertainment, as well as a few chills and thrills as it (re)creates a new/old legend about how too much candy is not good for you and the only good witch is a dead one.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.