Two days ago my opinion of Dominic Sena was basically favorable for having directed one of my favorite guilty-pleasure flicks of all time, Gone in Sixty Seconds. Though released in 2000, I think of that Jerry Bruckheimer fast-car movie as a ’90s thing because it closed out the glory period when Bruckheimer was cranking out high-octane, smartly-written Chateaubriand guy movies hand over fist. I would have that time again.
I also half-respect the effort that Sena put into Kalifornia, a 1993 Brad Pitt serial killer flick that resulted in Sena doing a six-year stretch in movie jail, and Swordfish, the semi-decent Joel Silver-produced action-thriller which featured a superb (some would say close to legendary) bullet-time explosion sequence.
And then the night before last I saw Sena’s Season of the Witch, and my mouth fell open. We’re talking (a) medieval adventure crap, (b) a completely predictable poor man’s Peter Jackson film, (c) nothing to give a friggin’ damn about except for one character, (d) men on horseback amidst mud and grunge and disgusting corpses, (e) nonsensical CG applications in pursuit of cheap highs, and (f) ridiculously disparate dialogue (Bruce Willis-style macho wisecracks mixed with the same mock-formal English used in all Hollywood-goes-medieval movies), etc. It’s not even worth going into, trust me. Okay, I could get into it but this is basically what we all have to sit through in January and February. Sit there and submit and go “aarrrghhhh, mommy!”
My son Dylan summed it up as we left the theatre: “Why did they even make this movie?”
At first it seems as if Season of the Witch is going to sell aggressive misogyny in a medieval guise by advancing the notion that many 13th Century women were in fact witches and that, you know, they needed to be hanged and drowned and burned. But then Sena drops this and starts concentrating on just one presumed witch (played by Claire Foy), who may or may not be wicked or possessed by a demon or whatever.
Like I said yesterday, Foy’s is only performance with a semblance of intrigue in the whole thing. The problem is that she spends 85% to 90% of the film all greasy and grungy and inside a wooden cage on wheels. Sena uses her in one partially-concealed nudity shot near the finish, presumably because he could.
The screenwriter is a guy named Bragi F. Schut. That’s made up, right? Either way the name is now mud in more ways than one.
Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, who was sitting three or four seats to my right, was rolling his eyes when he wrote his review, but he at least found the energy and the motivation to stick to the subject without meandering around.
Right now Season of the Witch has an 18% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It might go up a tad when the kneejerk fanboys (i.e., guys who will put up with any film that dabbles in the cinefantastique realm by throwing in a few CG werewolves and flying demons at the end) start weighing in. It cost close to $40 million, and will probably take in $13 or $14 million this weekend. I presuming that Relativity made it with the idea that the impressionable overseas market would line up no matter what.