Because we couldn’t stay away for long, here’s another SyFy review for you. Spoiler alert – it’s dull as hell, so if you’re a busy person who can spare 90 minutes for a movie but not three minutes to read a review, don’t bother. If you’d like to join me in annoyance, read on.
Luke Goss is presumably quite happy Bros are reforming, and I bet he hopes they make enough money for him to retire from the movies. He’s been in some interesting stuff, including the two “Death Race” sequels and “Blade 2”, and is much better known as an actor than he ever was as a singer, but…he’s not the best picker of material, let’s put it that way. He and Danny Trejo are go-to guys for low-budget action directors, it would seem (credited together 5 times), and chances are if you see a DVD that looks like a big-budget movie, only you’ve never heard of it, Goss will be in it.
Here, he’s Malachy, a medieval type enjoying a beer with his friend Jason (Ed Speleers). Their fun is spoiled when Jason’s brother Erik (Andrew Pleavin) comes in to round them up and get them back to “the kingdom”, where Malachy’s Dad, the King, is dying. Turns out witches have been cursing the place, or just using up the vitality of the Earth for their black magic, for some time, and the kingdom is in a right old state. A magician called, oddly, Heinrich Kramer (Simon Thorp), tells em about the witches – he has a book with all their secrets in it, and wants their help in hunting down and killing them all. He also appears to be doing a Jonathan Pryce impression, but that’s not crucial to the movie or this review.
The Witch Queen is Sarah Douglas, by a comfortable distance the most famous actor in it (the first two “Superman” movies, a lifetime of TV and film roles, and a regular of the ISCFC, from “Meatballs 4”, “Puppet Master 3” and “Beastmaster 2”). She has an assistant, Jozefa (MyAnna Buring, “Ripper Street”), and a big supply of weird red smoke which possesses people.
There’s not really a lot to this movie. The gang goes after witches, the witches try and kill them, there’s a very obvious “this villain will eventually be on the good side” twist, and then there’s the role of China. As this was funded by Chinese money, Malachy meets a group of Chinese fighters who kill his cannon fodder troops, then when they realise who he is and what he’s fighting, join up with him and become sort of background for the rest of the movie – like that was all they needed to secure the funding, and they couldn’t be bothered to write characters for any of them.
Simon Thorp’s performance is so terrible that I kept expecting him to be the main villain of the piece, undercover, but…no. And Buring is so terrible that I knew she’d be on the good guys’ side by the end. Everyone else is terrible thanks to an appalling script, which has them all talking like brain-dead characters from medieval fan-fiction; Goss is particularly poorly served by the lines he’s forced to read out, but no-one comes out of it well. There’s also a really bad non-following of Chekhov’s Gun – at the beginning, we see Heinrich with a powder that can briefly resurrect dead creatures, so you think, reasonably, that at some point that powder will be used on one of our heroes, to give them that little push over the top to finally defeat evil…of course, that might have been fun or interesting so they just never mention it again.
The main problem I have is how grossly mismatched the contest is. The Witch Queen wins constantly, with our heroes buffeted on all sides by forces they can’t possibly match; after seeing them beaten over and over again for over an hour, a couple of the characters suddenly get massive power-ups during the final battle. What’s quite surprising is seeing a movie about witchcraft in 2010 that doesn’t try and do anything interesting with the idea – like it’s an expression of feminism, or men wanting to control women and being upset when they wanted their own lives. But it’s just more evil women, crappy obvious plot twists, and a pair of twins (spoiler!) who in real life are 11 years apart in age. Clearly the distributors wanted you to think it had more of an Eastern flavour, either to sell it to China or set it apart from legions of similar releases, but if I’d bought it on that proviso, I’d have been very disappointed indeed.
But if you’re a fan of “World Of Warcraft”, then there’s quite a lot to enjoy. All those shoulder-armour-things, ludicrously oversized and entirely unsuitable for combat, feel like lifts from the game, and there’s an apparently almost exact ripoff of a character from a WoW comic (never read it). Also, more than a few people have noticed the similarity to another computer game, “Witcher”, so perhaps they were hoping to get naming rights to one of those, failed but decided to keep the props they’d made.
Anyway, it’s only the morning after watching it, and mercifully the details are already fading from my mind. Let’s just all pretend it never happened, eh?
Rating: thumbs down