Nicolas Cage meanders about drab medieval adventure
Nicolas Cage has settled down into vacillating between two modes: chewing the scenery like a moaning basset hound, or plodding morosely through his marks. More and more, it seems that he’s not so much an actor, but a famous face in the later stage of being held hostage by the Hollywood suits for some perverse entertainments. But Season of the Witch is mostly Cage in the latter mode, and the movie never overcomes the meta aspect of waiting for the man to reel gloriously into the former. Aside from one eruption of barking outrage, he never does.
Way back during the Crusades, God’s knights Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are trapped in a montage that plays out like a teaser for an upcoming medieval-times first-person-shooter videogame. They’re having a good time, exchanging bon mots as they slay the infidels on their road trip through Europe. But all good things come to an embarrassing halt when they realize—halfway through slaughtering the citizens of their latest mission—that the targets are exclusively woman and children. The menfolk must be off on their own crusade. Whoops. Party foul.
Of course our heroes are mortified, and promptly set off to tender their resignations as Christian soldiers to middle management. They come across as a couple of guys who would have gone straight to the top to turn in their papers, but God appears to have been out of the castle during that period of history. So off they go on foot—trudge, trudge, trudging until they enter the Black Plague period in the form of a disease-wracked village and are compelled to drag a slatternly witch in a cage (Claire Foy) across the countryside to another abbey where the monks will read a passage at the witch from some ancient tome and end the plague. Or something like that. Oh, sure, there are temptations, a rickety bridge they need to cross, and woods full of wolves, but all in all it’s a not-quite-epic journey.
Season of the Witch is not a very ambitious film, although it toys with wanting to be something like the Sean Connery/Christian Slater similar-period piece The Name of the Rose, with added adventure. With director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds) at the helm, it’s competent enough but never anything more. Throughout, Cage and Perlman exchange action-movie dialogue against a background that remains stagnant with fog and mossy gray. Though admittedly the movie does rouse itself and shake its head for the CGI-happy climax, by that point it’s about an hour too late.
It’s not a good movie, and unfortunately even then it’s not ambitious enough to be entertaining despite itself. And with Cage front and center, that’s really inexcusable.