Season of the Witch
Dir. Dominic Sena
Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman
I’ve never really gotten the hatred towards Nicolas Cage. The man is perhaps the most “committed” actor in America, and his performaces are fascinating, whether they are in great films like Leaving Las Vegas or Bad Lieutenant, or truly awful, otherwise irredeemable films such as The Wicker Man or Next.
But that dedication to chaos in acting, or rather the lack of it, is perhaps the biggest disappointment of Season of the Witch. It’s true that this is a ghastly film, but Cage’s aloof performance is perhaps the most shocking thing of all.
Season of the Witch is a vaguely historical supernatural drama. Cage plays Behmen and Ron Perlman is Felsen, his wisecracking sidekick. Both men are knights in the Crusades, and having seen enough death and destruction, they desert their posts and set off for freedom. Soon enough, they’ve encountered a town that has been decimated by the black plague. The only way they can avoid being persecuted for desertion is to take a job from the leader of the town (played in a minute-long cameo by Christopher Lee), leading the “witch,” who purportedly brought the plague upon the town, out to her “trial.”
The boredom of all involved is palpable. Perlman is probably the most game to the material, acting as if the whole thing is just a lark. Unintentional silliness, at least for the first two-thirds, is even too much to ask of the director Dominic Sena (probably best known for Gone in 60 Seconds) and the writer, Bragi Schut, who attempt to maintain a “dark thriller” atmosphere and fail to keep things interesting.
Probably the biggest culprit for Season of the Witch’s failure is its writing. Besides the weird juxtaposition of “ye olde” English and modern American slang, the film also seems to make some wild claims – for example, that the plague didn’t have a biological origin, and that the Crusades were ultimately justifiable. Not to mention the film’s odd sexism, which it tries to sweep under the rug with a “supernatural” explanation.
Mostly, though, the film is just a slog. The first two-thirds are so perfunctory and slow that the CGI nightmare at the end of the film isn’t entirely justified and winds up being unintentionally hilarious. For fans of Nic Cage, however, the movie’s worst sin is is the tediousness of his performance.