Most well-known actors are loved for the skill with which they practice their craft. Vin Diesel is not one of those actors; the 48 year-old action star’s continuing popularity is due, in part, to his inability to deliver a believable performance. Audiences may go to Diesel movies for brutal fight sequences, but they also go to watch the man most famous for his work in the “Fast & Furious” franchise struggle to display basic human emotions, in scenes which require him to do more than grunt animalistically.
Diesel’s latest vehicle, “The Last Witch Hunter,” is pure absurdity: a meat-headed fantasy so delightfully dumb, viewers with a sense of humor will not help but fall in love with it.
The film begins in medieval Europe, as the Black Plague ravages the continent. The sickness is a literal curse, cast upon the land by the Witch Queen (Julia Engelbrecht), a corpse-like sorceress who wishes to exterminate the human race in order to rule the world. Diesel is Kaulder, the man who – in a last-ditch attempt to save humanity – slays the Witch, who jinxes him with her dying breath, sentencing the weary warrior to immortality.
The film then jumps forward in time to the present day, revealing that Kaulder has spent the past 800 years becoming a low-budget Batman, complete with utility belt. The most notable similarity between Diesel’s character and the caped crusader of “The Dark Night” trilogy is in their choice of confidantes; legendary actor Michael Caine – best known today for his role as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred – plays Kaulder’s best friend and handler, Dolan 36.
While the titular last witch hunter is merely a copy of a well-known superhero, his surroundings are slightly more complex. Kaulder’s world is built of fantasy tropes popularized within the past 30 years: the influence of popular video games, novels and comic books can be felt clearly throughout the entire movie.
The central plot of “The Last Witch Hunter” focuses upon the sudden reemergence of the Witch Queen and Kaulder’s quest to kill her once again. Along the way, he gains two new sidekicks: the diminutive Dolan 37 – played by a wide-eyed Elijah Wood – and Chloe (Rose Leslie), a bartending witch with a punk-rock aesthetic.
It is doubtful “The Last Witch Hunter” will live long in theaters, but cinephiles should not be surprised if the film develops a large fan base: Diesel has long had a penchant for starring in cult classics.
Catch “The Last Witch Hunter” when it debuts on Netflix, and watch it with friends over a pizza. Although it fails as a sincere action-thriller, it succeeds as a hilariously inept B-movie, which will be enjoyed for years to come by those with an appreciation for bad filmmaking.