Director Tommy Wirkola puts a bloodthirsty new spin on the classic fairytale in this gleefully violent fantasy.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters does exactly what it says in the snappy title: expands the story of two children held hostage by a crone in a gingerbread house into a full-blooded battle between the forces of good and evil.
The script marries action movie convention with an olde-worlde setting, providing the titular heroes with an arsenal of pithy one-liners as they despatch the enemy.
“She looks angry,” remarks Gretel, staring at one restrained hag.
“Wouldn’t you be if you had a face like that?” quips Hansel, who intends to make her face look far worse by unleashing twin barrels at point-blank range in stomach-churning 3D.
There is no such thing as overkill here.
Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and his feisty sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton) had their first encounter with witches as children when they stumbled into a house made of delicious candy.
Through luck and enterprise, the siblings flung the diabolical crone into her oven, establishing their reputation throughout the land as protectors against the dark arts.
Hansel and Gretel grow up with a hatred for these shape-shifting creatures and devote every waking minute to hunting down witches with their ingenious homemade weapons.
When several children from one sleepy village go missing, Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) blames local woman Mina (Pihla Viitala) and prepares to burn her as a witch.
The eponymous heroes intervene in the nick of time.
“I’m not going to have you telling me what to do!” barks the Sheriff.
Gretel settles the argument with a headbutt and frees Mina, who takes an immediate shine to smitten Hansel.
The siblings set about tracking down powerful grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen), who is kidnapping local tykes as a sacrifice during the forthcoming night of the Blood Moon.
The witches are aided by a hulking ogre called Edward (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes), who carries off children into the night.
With the odds stacked against them, Hansel, Gretel and an enthusiastic protege (Thomas Mann) lay their lives on the line to save the children and send Muriel and her coven back to hell.
With lashings of gore and potty-mouthed humour, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is no slavish retread of the Brothers Grimm.
Wirkola splatters one crone’s guts all over the camera lens and another set-piece reduces a swarm of the villainesses to chunks of airborne flesh and entrails.
Renner and Arterton dispatch their prey with the occasional well-timed aside, both enjoying the physical aspects of their roles.
However, frenetic action sequences cannot compensate for flimsy plotting and a paucity of character development.
Star Rating: 2.5/5