Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: Brainless, Fun, and Bloody
And you thought your childhood was rough. Hansel and Gretel had it way worse! Abandoned in the woods by their parents and forced to fight for their lives against a child-eating witch, it's no wonder Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) ended up with some deep-seated psychological issues and a substantial thirst for violence. In Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the siblings are now contract killers, ridding the countryside of a surprisingly bountiful amount of witches using an arsenal of steampunk weaponry. The two aren't exactly well-adjusted: They've got some sort of pseudosexual relationship in which Hansel sleeps curled up on the floor next to his sister's bed. And, when he was a child, that evil witch forced Hansel to eat so much candy that he's now diabetic, regularly requiring needle jabs to keep up his fighting strength.
This playful goofiness makes Hansel and Gretel, for the most part, a brainless, fun fantasy, with plenty of R-rated gore and just the right amount of bodice-heaving sex appeal. Renner and Arterton are both solid, with Renner making the most of his clichéd tough-guy quips. Famke Jannsen plays a super-evil witch, and is thankfully uncovered by monster makeup for at least a few scenes, while Peter Stormare's incomprehensible accent plays a town sheriff who—oh fuck it, I'll just spoil it for you—gets his head stomped in by a troll.
Of course, a movie this stupid isn't quite smart enough to pull it all off. There's a seemingly complicated mythology that director Tommy Wirkola (who also made the Norwegian zombie-Nazi gorefest Dead Snow) isn't very good at explaining, there's a bunch of gibberish about dark witches and white witches, sometimes magic wands work and sometimes they don't, and Hansel and Gretel are totally able to tell who's a witch by looking at their teeth... except when they can't. And the movie's sense of geography is baffling: The entire story seems to take place within five square miles, yet Hansel and Gretel don't initially recognize some very familiar places they've certainly been to before.
But back to the good things: There's tons of action, a few good throwaway gags, and some ridiculously elaborate creature design for an army of witches at the film's climax (although some of the witches barely get any screen time, like the poor Eskimo witch). Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is as pleasantly mindless as Krull and as bong-friendly as Your Highness. Your inner 12-year-old will enjoy the shit out of it.