Directed by: Dominic Sena
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Robert Sheehan, Ulrich Thomsen
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content
Sometimes it’s nice to go to the movies and not have to think, to just sit back and be entertained by a silly movie with action, excitement, and a smattering of comedy. “Season of the Witch” is a film made for that kind of mood. It stars the king of this genre, Nicholas Cage (“National Treasure,” anyone? Or “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?”), and will not disappoint if you’re looking for sword-swinging action with a smattering of magic.
Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are hardened knights just home from the Crusades. Unfortunately, they deserted, so when they’re spotted the local Cardinal trades a pardon for one last mission for the Church: along with a priest (Stephen Campbell Moore), they’re to escort a young woman accused of witchcraft (Claire Foy) to a remote abbey so that the monks can strip her of her powers and end the plague she’s allegedly brought to the land. A con artist (Stephen Graham) agrees to be their guide and the one remaining knight in the city who hasn’t died of plague (Ulrich Thomsen) goes as well, along with an altar boy who desperately wants to be a warrior (Robert Sheehan). This rag-tag group must struggle along the hard road through desolate areas as their captive alternately tries to escape and manipulates them.
The plot moves like an arrow once it gets rolling. Our protagonists encounter a difficulty on the road (demonic wolves, a very unstable bridge, etc), figure out how to overcome it, and move on; repeat until they reach the abbey and the big finale. There are no real subplots, no cuts away from the main action to another group of characters. It’s all witch-escorting, all the time, and that makes it an easy film to get caught up in. It’s a straightforward roller coaster ride to the finish.
“Season of the Witch” is far from historically accurate, but then, if you go into a Nicholas Cage film about witchcraft and demons expecting a History Channel documentary, I’m not going to hold the movie responsible for you having a bad time. This is not a film for anachronism-haters. There are little bits of historical weirdness slipped in here and there as pleasant surprises, but for the most part, this is a fantasy film cloaked in a bit of history.
The parts aren’t terribly demanding, and the actors don’t hold back — there’s more than a little scenery chewing, but there are also moments of sly humor brought to life by actors who seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, Perlman in particular. It’s a shame he doesn’t star in more films, he’s a lot of fun to watch. Cage is his usual self: serious, sometimes mournful-looking, and a good choice for the disillusioned Behmen.
Those who are knowledgeable about the middle ages or medieval magical texts will need to set their expertise aside to enjoy this, but fans of sword-swinging fantasy films will be in their element. This is a flick to see with a group of friends and have a raucous good time.