The screenplay is like a transcription of a Dungeons and Dragons session: better hope you make a high saving throw during the wolf attack in Wormwood Forest! The “performances” are like clueless imitations of Monty Python by actors who don’t understand comedy. Nicolas Cage (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Chaotic Good Human Paladin, and Ron Perlman (I Sell the Dead), Neutral Wiseass, abandon the Crusades when all the killing and carousing stops being fun, and for reasons that are too boring to go into, end up taking a job transporting a witch (Claire Foy) from the town to which she supposedly brought plague to a distant monastery, where she can be exorcised or destroyed or whatever it is that the magic book of Christian incantation in residence at the monastery is supposed to do to witches. Forget the reality of women who were healers or midwives being tortured as witches by misogynist priests for reasons that came to lend the word “medieval” its negative connotations: this witch is the real thing, a nasty manipulator of the poor vulnerable men who get near her… and oh yes, she actually is responsible for that plague. Cage’s Behman surely should be accused of witchcraft himself, what with his remarkably progressive ideas about fair trials and his magical-seeming notions about the germ theory of infection: I’m not sure where a 14th-century knight would get the idea that disinfecting a wound with alcohol is the thing to do, but Satan seems like as good a guess as any. I might guess that Satan is behind this turgid flick, which is neither gory enough to please splatter fans nor witty enough to please anyone else. Perhaps screenwriter Bragi F. Schut sold his soul to the Devil and got cheated, for it’s hard to see how both this bloated junk and the wonderfully creepy if sadly short-lived alien-invasion TV series Threshold can both be his work. Witch is, however, par for the course for director Dominic Sena (Whiteout, Swordfish), who seems incapable of making movies that aren’t both unpleasantly preposterous and mind-numbingly boring.
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