Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola, (his last project was Hellfjord, a Norwegian TV comedy), this lovely little picture earned its R rating. With Jeremy Renner as Hansel, Gemma Arterton as Gretel and Femke Janssen as Muriel, these stars are all familiar with CGI effects. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is full of action packed ass kicking sequences, blood, guts and swearing.
Wirkola’s plot starts with the story most everyone has heard growing up. A little boy and girl are left the forest. They wind their way through said forest and stumble upon a house made of candy. The children are let inside, captured and the witch holds them captive. The witch feeds young Hansel (played by Cedric Eich) candy to fatten him up. Young Gretel (played by Alea Sophia Boudodimos) cleverly picks up a nail, picks the padlock on her chains and the brother and sister begin their lives as witch hunters.
Fast forward “many years later” and Hansel and Gretel have made a name for themselves tracking and killing witches. But you have to wonder how the witch didn’t kill Gretel all those years ago in the battle for freedom. The duo arrive in town, at the request of the mayor, just in time to save a young woman from being burned. Children have gone missing. The town thinks this woman is the witch. Hansel saves her, Gretel breaks Sheriff Berringer’s (played by Peter Stormare) nose and they pow-wow with the mayor. They are in the pub where they meet Ben (played by Thomas Mann) and receive a message from the Grand Dark Witch. One of the sheriff’s men returns and explodes. “The curse of Hunger for All Crawling Things. I fucking hate that one,” Gretel says as the entrails hang, and blood drips, off her. Hansel has used young Ben as a shield.
They go hunting, catch a witch, try to save a girl and Hansel and Gretel get separated. Gretel is set upon by Sheriff Berringer and more of his men. She is rescued by a troll named Edward. When she asks why he helped her he replies, “Trolls serve witches.” The brother and sister learn what really happened to their parents after meeting up in the forest where the movie starts. With the help of Mina (played by Pihla Viitala), the young woman Hansel saved, Hansel is able to locate and free his sister after she is captured by Muriel. But stop here I will! Spoilers. But one of the best lines from the movie ends it. Gretel, “I hate to break it to you, it’s not going to be an open casket.”
When Hansel comes upon the witch’s house that started the whole ordeal he utters the line, “Whatever you do don’t eat the fuckin’ candy.” It is possibly one of the best lines in the movie that was previewed in the red tail trailer making rounds on the internet when this handy thing was “Unrated.” Besides the swearing, which there are a lot of f-bombs, it seemed like a novice filmmaker just randomly stuffing them in. Not to mention the brief nude scene, more later on that. The plot was fairly sturdy but there were spots that could have been a little better. The pub could have been so much more than it was. There was potential for comedic scenes but it wasn’t used and for a comedy writer, what a missed opportunity. Jeremy Renner’s performance was really good. He took a pounding in the action sequences and for the age difference between the leads, well, you’d never know he’s hit the big 4-0. Gemma Arterton’s Gretel was a great performance. There was chemistry between them but not sexual chemistry. The casting decisions there worked well. The choice for Mina however, was a bit lacking. She did a good job in her role but there was no chemistry between Mina and Hansel, not like there was with Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in The Avengers. Although it takes a certain type of female to match Renner, Rachel Weisz didn’t have the chemistry required for the break neck action, and supposed sexual tension, in The Bourne Legacy. But then, the story was about revenge, which Hansel tells us “revenge is good but it won’t bring [their] parents back” and not love. But a random implied sex scene that lacked anything but awkwardness helped earn this movie it’s R rating. If you want a good blood and guts shoot’em up with leather, corsets and plenty of steampunk then this is an excellent movie to see!
College graduate, Army vet, single mom, Husky mom, Movie lover, writer