Review – Season of the Witch

And so it was that during  Castamind revision for our upcoming episode, I was feeling extremely proud of myself for picking such a balls out great specialist subject. Nic Cage action movies of the mid 1990’s – I’d already finished (and had a blast with) Con Air and was half way through Face/Off  when the sudden mad urge struck me to venture out to the movies to catch Cage’s latest flick.

Poor old Nicolas Cage – admonished more regularly than praised, he remains the only person we have ever dedicated and anti dedicated episodes to (and it was in the same one too!). There’s something quite enigmatic about Cage because we all know that he has the ability to pull some huge performances out of the bag, but despite that he just seems to have a knack to pick completely rubbish movies; good examples there are Ghost Rider and Knowing which stand out to me as easily two of the worst films I have ever seen. Recent choices have been underwhelming compared to his form of old but have proven themselves to be relatively inoffensive; Next was alright I guess, Bangkok Dangerous was pretty watchable action fare, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was a fun ride and both Bad Lieutenant and Kick Ass proved that he still has the chops when he works with the right material.

Needless to say then I was feeling pretty unoptimistic about Season of the Witch, which has suffered from both a completely lacklustre marketing campaign as well as pretty dire reviews all round – scoring only 4% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite all that though, I felt as though I owed Nic something – like as a friend – so I buried my doubts and optimistically strolled into the screen.

95 minutes later I walked out a different man. Well not quite. In fact I was probably more the same man than I had been after seeing any other film ever. Let’s be clear on this from the off (just in case the aforementioned universal panning didn’t clarify it enough for you already) in no way is Season of the Witch a good film. What I’m here to tell you that this film is nowhere as bad as what you may have been led to believe.

The set up is simple, Nic Cage and Ron Perlman are two disenfranchised knights who have had pretty much enough of killing everyone in the name of God. They abandon the army and head for home, only to find that a mysterious plague has ravaged every town they pass. They’re reluctantly enlisted to deliver a witch (believed to be the cause of the plague) to a nearby monastery, where she can be “dealt with”. They assemble a rag tag band of compatriots and head off to the monastery, only to find that on the journey [insert generic plot twist here].

Like Solomon Kane last year, this film features an intriguing mix of history and fantasy, which helps to differentiate it enough from the mainstay of average cinema. The events are most passable when they’re in full on history mode, as some of the fantasy ends up becoming a little too goofy looking to really be taken too seriously – especially in the climactic ten minutes which actually serve to undermine the subtlety of the preceding eighty minutes by being so ridiculously over the top.

There are some pretty nice performances here; Cage in the lead role is fairly stoic and unemotional, Perlman as his partner is full of wisecracks and punches and Christopher Lee drops in a nice five minute scene with some pretty horrific (in a good way) makeup. Other no namers make up the remainder of the cast but they all just turn up and do their part. No one will be putting this movie at the top of their CV, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom either.

Nic Cage does nothing wrong in this film; saying that though he doesn’t do anything right either; this movie then can happily be added to the likes of Lord of War, Bangkok Dangerous and Gone in 60 seconds which all prove themselves to be as mildly entertaining as any other junk you may happen to flick over to on TV. The real question for me then is why the hell does Nic Cage keep doing this to himself?! Sure we can forgive a bad choice every now and then but this guy seems to have no filter!

Having said that though, it could also be argued that this is exactly what makes Nic Cage so bold and brave an actor – it could be that he’s made his money, paid his dues and now he just does whatever he wants, whether that be the good (Adaptation) or the really really bad (Knowing). I think there must be a degree of personal drive and passion behind his choices of role; otherwise why the hell would he be going back to Ghost Rider?!

Fair play to him I say; I hope he keeps putting out three films a year and that every now and then we strike upon something amazing. But hey even if it’s all junk, we can rest assured that at least someone will be enjoying themselves. Saying that though, I would be too if I was on his kind of money…

I’m aware that maybe went a bit off kilter for a review in the end and became something of a micro-analysis on the enigma that is Nic Cage but it’s hard not o segue into that discussion when he pulls something so average out of the bag yet again. To sum up though I had a pretty enjoyable, completely passable time watching this film and it certainly doesn’t feel to me like it deserves all the negativity it has received. Don’t go out of your way to see it, but maybe consider sticking it on when it’s out on DVD and you have to do the ironing or something.


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