Friday 24 November 2017

Movie reviews: The Last Witch Hunter, Mississippi Grind, Legend of Longwood, Paranormal Activity 6

* The Last Witch Hunter (12A, 106mins), 2 stars
* Mississippi Grind (15A, 108mins), 3 stars
* Legend of Longwood (PG, 98mins), 2 stars
* Paranormal Activity 6 (15A, 88mins), 2 stars

On the case: Rose Leslie, Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood in the Last Witch Hunter
On the case: Rose Leslie, Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood in the Last Witch Hunter

Vin Diesel has rarely strayed in recent years from the Fast and Furious franchise, which will rumble on, by the way, in spite of Paul Walker's death. The next one is due in 2017, and meanwhile Vin fills in time by starring in this odd and not entirely dislikeable fantasy, The Last Witch Hunter. He is Kaulder, the leader of a hunnish-looking 14th-century tribe who set out to hunt and kill the witch who caused the Plague. When he finds her and runs her through, she curses him to live forever, and wander the earth disconsolate.

Eight hundred years later, Kaulder doesn't seem one bit disconsolate. He lives in a luxury apartment overlooking Central Park, where he swigs malt whiskey and entertains a steady stream of air hostesses. He travels the world putting manners on witches, and is watched over by a kindly priest called Father Dolan (Michael Caine). When he dies in mysterious circumstances, Kaulder must join forces with Dolan's callow replacement (Elijah Wood) and a young witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie) to prevent the return of the sorceress who cursed him.

This mad and witchy, effects-laden caper is all over the place of terms of tone, but has a sense of humour and a cheerful disrespect for its absurd storyline that makes it fairly watchable. Mr Diesel rumbles through it with his usual thespian minimalism, and never seems one bit impressed by the supernatural horrors that oppose him.

Early on in Mississippi Grind, gambling slacker Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is asked who he owes money to. "Everyone," he replies, smiling wearily and stretching wide his arms. He is a kind of patron saint to those poor souls who can never resist the next throw of the dice, and Anna Boden and Ryan Flick's movie treads a fine line between dramatising America's endemic gambling culture, and romanticising it.

Gerry's losing hard at a high stakes poker game when he begins chatting with a younger gambler called Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). They hit it off, and decide to travel to New Orleans and infiltrate a legendary poker game. Curtis is a charmer who's never lost for words, but Gerry gradually realises that his new friend is not as perfect as he seems.

Mississippi Grind is refreshingly rough around the edges, and feels a bit like one of Raymond Carver's journeys through America's blue-collar underbelly. Ryan Reynolds seems less self-consciously handsome than usual, and we all know how good an actor Ben Mendelsohn is. They run off each other well, but peripheral characters are hastily sketched, and Mississippi Grind reveals too little about its protagonists to truly satisfy.

Lisa Mulcahy's sweet and old-fashioned children's drama Legend of Longwood stars Lucy Morton as Mickey, a 12-year-old New Yorker who finds the going tough when she moves to a small town in rural Ireland. There she begins seeing the ghost of an angry knight on horseback, and discovers a connection between it, an ancient tragedy and herself.

Miss Mulcahy's film is warm-hearted and features the odd good performance, especially Fiona Glascott's witchy pantomime villain, but overall it feels stiff and deliberate, and plods slowly towards its predictable denouement.

And finally to Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, the sixth and, we are assured, last part of Oren Peli's bargain basement horror franchise. In Paranormal Activities one, two, three, four and five, suburban American families were terrorised by a furniture-shifting, door-slamming entity. And in The Ghost Dimension, we finally get to meet Toby, the demonic prankster behind it all. He's no George Clooney. When a young family move into a new house and find an 1980s video recorder, they turn it on and notice strange sparks of ectoplasm drifting across the lens. They ought to leave, but don't.

Coming soon...

Spectre (Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes); Listen to Me Marlon (Marlon Brando); Taxi (Jafar Panahi); They Will Have to Kills Us First; The Black Panthers.

Irish Independent

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