‘Hansel & Gretel’ goes wild with gore 

click to enlarge Kids fight back: in “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the violent grown-up version of the famed fairy tale characters. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • Kids fight back: in “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the violent grown-up version of the famed fairy tale characters.

Like last year’s Snow White movies, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” the new “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” comes from the Brothers Grimm, although in this case, the Grimms merely recorded a German tale that, before  1812, was an oral tradition.

But unlike 2012’s movies, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” bravely gets a little crazy.

It begins with a simple idea: After young Hansel and Gretel kill the witch in the cottage made of gingerbread and candy, they continue on their path, killing more witches and rescuing more kidnapped kids.

As grownups, they are leather-clad, orphaned ass kickers, played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, complete with automatic weapons and modern-day swear words.

They get paid for rescuing children, and their latest job is more complicated than usual. They must stop an extremely powerful witch (Famke Janssen) who has kidnapped a dozen children for a blood ritual that will unleash immeasurable evil.

Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola, who made the admired horror flick "Dead Snow," strips fat and filler in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," and focuses on fighting, pummeling, shooting, chasing and the spurting of blood.

There are no pauses for emotional connections or back stories.

Typically, this approach is a drawback, but here, it’s an asset. Director Wirkola ought to be applauded for keeping up the pace and clocking the film in at only 88 minutes.

And the spiffy leather outfits, firearms, candy cottage, and various other set and costume designs add plenty of mood.

Still, the movie could go deeper, possibly exploring the main characters’ lifelong, intensely close brother-sister relationship. What kind of shorthand communication might they have developed, for instance?

Or it could delve further into Hansel's relationship with a good witch (Pihla Viitala), highlighting his aversion for all witches. (He says, “The only good witch is a dead witch.")

But with no depth and all speed, "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" entertains quickly and simply, hustling viewers out of the theater before its impact sinks in – or fades away. 

REVIEW 
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Two and a half stars
Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen
Written by Tommy Wirkola, D.W. Harper
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Rated R
Running time
1 hour 28 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bio:
Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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