TACITURN BRUTALISM OF STALLONE
The multiple bullets that pierce multiple brains in Bullet to the Head suggest that the title refers to an ideal rather than being merely descriptive. It implies an appreciation and awareness of the principles of contemporary action cinema, and perhaps even a sense of play in respect to the genre. And while the veteran action director Walter Hill hasn’t done much to enliven this dull, unmemorable material, with its mechanically moving parts and popping gunfire, its dull-red splatter and spray, he has brought a spark of wit to the proceedings, starting with the figure of Sylvester Stallone.
A SOMEWHAT PERVERSE FAIRY TALE
Between the vampire fad and the zombie fad, we haven’t been giving nearly enough attention lately to this planet’s witch problem, so it’s good to see the Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola put the issue back in the public eye with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It may not stay in the public eye long because this movie is probably not going to put up Twilight-like numbers, but, hey, you have to admire the against-the-grain effort.
Wirkola, who also wrote the film, takes as his starting point the somewhat perverse fairy tale about a brother and sister who are abandoned in the woods and then kidnapped by a witch who considers them dinner. Wirkola envisions the grown-up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton), who have amassed quite a reputation as witch hunters and are summoned to a village where children have been disappearing in alarming numbers.
Candy cottage notwithstanding, Wirkola doesn’t sugarcoat his witches: these are nasty creatures who desperately need some anti-wrinkle cream and are exceedingly difficult to kill. But Hansel and Gretel aren’t having nearly as much fun doing that job as brother-sister witch hunters ought to.
There isn’t much swashbuckling chemistry between Renner and Arterton, and the script doesn’t give them enough of the witty lines that can elevate these types of movies to must-see status, which is odd, since the producers include Will Ferrell. The most appealing character in the film ends up being a troll named Edward.
Neil Genzlinger (NYTNS)
Which film did you like better — Bullet to the Head or Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org