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Season of the Witch Doesn't Slow Cage's Sad Slide

  • Christian Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2011 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
<i>Season of the Witch</i> Doesn't Slow Cage's Sad Slide

DVD Release Date:  June 28, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: January 7, 2011
Rating:  PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content)
Genre:  Drama, Thriller
Run Time:  95 min.
Director: Dominic Sena
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Ulrich Thomsen, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee

Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage garnered respect as an actor. He still commands top billing, but based on his recent string of disasters, one can only wonder at how long he'll be able to keep it up. Since 2000, Cage has been on a losing streak. For every National Treasure hit, Cage has starred in numerous high-profile flops—Bangkok Dangerous, Knowing, Next and the remake of The Wicker Man.


One of the few Cage films audiences embraced was Gone in 60 Seconds, released just over a decade ago. That film was directed by Dominic Sena, who has a woeful entry among his own recent output—Whiteout, one of the worst films of 2009. Cage and Sena, in search of whatever worked in Gone in 60 Seconds, have teamed up again for Season of the Witch, but this torpid tale of misguided zeal only serves to confirm that both figures have hit the artistic skids.

The story, if anyone's remotely interested, goes like this:  In the 14th century, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) battle infidels during the Crusades. Hearty warriors they are, joking as they lay waste to humankind, and buying each other drinks based on who does the most killing in a given battle. After much "righteous" killing, Behman awakens to the fact that women and children are dying alongside armed fighters. Soon he's chastising the church and its priests, but not God, whom he says he'll continue to serve.

Behman and Felson return home, where church officials are blaming the Black Plague on suspected witches. It's there that they strike a deal to deliver an accused witch (Claire Foy) to a far-away monastery for trial.

Needless to say, things don't go smoothly. There's a rickety-bridge crossing, bickering and a dawning realization that the accused woman—whom Behman suspects is nothing more than a focal point of fear and loathing for a church he has renounced—may have powers that defy easy explanation.

Season of the Witch wants to have it both ways: It wants to criticize the church for falsely accusing the girl—another act to disgust cynics like Behman—but it also wants to vindicate those who accuse the girl of unusual powers and abilities. Having the opposing characters weigh the final evidence and challenge each other to a theological debate might have been more interesting than the big battle—demon included!—that concludes the film. But let's face it: Nothing about Season of the Witch lends itself to intellectual stimulation. What we want from the film is an exciting story with memorable characters—people who might make us care anew about the debate over the Crusades and the Church.

No such luck. Perlman has a few moments of levity, but Cage looks bored by his own performance. Foy, as the accused girl, emotes effectively from her portable jail cell. The film could have used more time with her and less time making priests and other church officials look like foolish "true believers" next to Behman's I'll-do-it-my-way individualism.


Ho hum. For a movie dealing with centuries-old conflicts, Season of the Witch generates barely a moment's interest. It will be forgotten by next weekend. But the industry needs to remember it and give Cage the decent comeback role he so sorely needs. What audiences do not want or need is a repeat of this poor performance.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  "p-ss"; "b-tch"; "my God."

  • Alcohol/Drugs:  Behman and Felson offer to buy drinks for the one who kills the most men; alcohol poured on a wound; drinking from a flask.

  • Sex/Nudity:  Felson remembers the things a woman could do in bed; a woman accused of being a witch says a captor "touched" her; a woman on a floor is clearly unclothed, but nothing explicit is shown.

  • Violence/Crime:  Three women accused of being witches are hung, and their corpses pulled from the water; several scenes of combat, sword fighting, death; a woman is impaled; a woman attacks her captors and is struck in the head; a mass grave; a man is run through with a sword; man devoured by wolves; stabbing; a man removes a knife from his back; a neck is snapped; a man burned alive.

  • Religion:  The church is on the warpath, and is condemned by the two lead characters for its violence; women accused of being in a pact with Satan; and one says that yes, she entered into such a pact; women are said to "burn in hell"; corpses return to life; a man asks, "Ever get the feeling that God has too many enemies?"; during the Crusades, men are said to be fighting against "those who have sinned against God and his only son"; Behman declares that he serves God, but "will serve the church no more"; a man says "prayer is our only salvation" and recites the Lord's Prayer; he says "a benevolent God would not ask such things" as are asked of him; jokey references to "holy water"; a woman appears to be able to manipulate people, even while locked in a cage; holy water sizzles when thrown against a woman accused of being a witch; a burial concludes with the words, "God be with you."

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.