Season of the Witch
starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, and Christopher Lee
directed by Dominic Sena
screenplay by Bragi Schut
Alliance Films (2011)
I don't know what goes on in Nicolas Cage's head when he's picking movies to star in. Maybe it's the mortgage, or maybe he just doesn't care anymore. Whatever the case, this movie strays so far into "bad" territory that it winds up spiking the needle so hard it goes right back into "good" territory.
Cage plays a knight doing his part in the Crusades, killing just about everyone who gets in his way. With his best buddy, played by Ron Perlman, he's having the time of his life, at least until he winds up seeing innocent women and children murdered. I can't imagine he spent so many years with that bloodthirsty gang of soldiers without seeing one lady slapped around before then, but whatever. As soon as the battle is over he and Perlman quit and head for home. That puts them on the hit list though, and are faced with either getting killed off by their former allies or joining one last mission to escort an accused witch to stand trial for her crimes. Seems like an easy choice, but he frets over it for some reason and only agrees to take her when he sees she's being abused.
So they all head down the yellow brick road to the monastery, but unlike Wizard of Oz the witch is locked in a cage and along for the ride. There are no lions or tigers or bears either, but there are very big wolves with very big teeth. Seemingly summoned by Anna the witch. They travel through the woods and meet all kinds of pitfalls, and one by one their small band is taken out by one horrific occurrence after another. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of excitement until they get to the monastery. Then business picks up. By that time though, I'm completely checked out and not even Ron Perlman's mesmerizing grimace can keep me engaged.
The movie is cheese, plain and simple, and it's played completely straight. Even the zippy one-liners are delivered with deadpan sincerity. I mean when the priest says, "We're gonna need more Holy water," how can you not laugh?
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. Even after the countless reviews that trashed it, I still wanted to give it a chance. Nicolas Cage has that effect on me. I've seen just about every movie he's ever been in--not Captain Morelli's Mandolin or whatever it's called; I have my limits--and a lot of those movies have no business being made. I mean, did you see that awful one he did about seeing a couple minutes into the future, and Jessica Biel was his love interest? Effing atrocious, yet I sat through the whole thing. That's the gravitas he has.
The movie has it's moments, but they're far and few between, and there are so many other movies set during the middle ages and involve the supernatural. The 13th Warrior springs to mind. In fact, go find that movie and watch it. Antonio Banderas and Vikings: now that's a winning combination.