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With: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann
Written by: Tommy Wirkola, D.W. Harper
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
MPAA Rating: R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Running Time: 88
Date: 17/01/2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hansel Over Fist

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like last year's two Snow White movies, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, the new Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters comes from the pages of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, although in this case, the Grimms merely recorded a German tale that, prior to 1812, had been circulated orally.

But unlike last year's movies, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters seems unafraid to get a little crazy.

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

Now, as grownups, they are a pair of 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 these days, but their latest job looks to be a bit more complicated. This time an extremely powerful witch (Famke Janssen) has kidnapped a dozen children to perform a blood ritual that will result in immeasurable evil powers.

As directed by the Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola, who made the much-admired horror movie Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is stripped of all fat and filler, and focuses mainly on fighting, pummeling, shooting, chasing, and the spurting of blood.

Any potential pauses for emotional connections or backstories are simply bulldozed.

Normally, this approach can be a drawback, but in a movie of this type, it's an asset. Picking up the pace and clocking in at only 88 minutes is a feat to be applauded.

Not to mention that the spiffy leather outfits, firearms, the candy cottage, and various other sets and costume designs add plenty of mood.

Still, it might have been nice for a bit of exploration into this lifelong, intensely close brother-sister relationship. What kind of shorthand communication might they have developed, for instance?

Or, it might have been interesting to delve a bit further into Hansel's relationship with a good witch (Pihla Viitala), highlighting the aversion he has for all things witch-like ("the only good witch is a dead witch").

But with no depth and only speed and impact to go on, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters hopes only to entertain quickly and simply, hustling viewers in and out of the theater before any of it can sink in, or fade away.

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