Nicolas Cage stars as the knackered and disillusioned crusader Behmen, who quits the Christian wars and goes on the run only to end up in a land ravaged by the Black Death. He and his buddy Felson (Ron Perlman) are soon cajoled into a job that offers them a chance of salvation; transporting the 'witch' accused of starting the sickness that's killing hundreds. It's barmy period stuff from Cage and co.
Stephen Campbell Moore
Nic Cage's insistence upon starring in every movie his agent can find might have led to a lack of quality control in recent years, and never has this been more evident than in director Dominic Sena's mystery-free mystical thriller.
Cage plays Behman, a Knight of the Realm who fights in the Crusades in the name of God and the Church, but after a dozen battles (depicted in a badly edited montage sequence), Behman realises he's been murdering innocent people all along, and figures that's probably not God's way.
Along with his loyal buddy Felson (Ron Perlman doing Hellboy without the make-up), Behman quits the Crusades (possibly in Hungary, it's hard to tell) and goes on the run, wearing a towel around his head in an effort to avoid accusations of desertion.
The pair stumble across a small village, where the Black Death has descended upon the residents. Spotted by the men of the local, dying Cardinal (an unrecognisable Christopher Lee), Behman and Hellboy are given a choice; face desertion charges, or help the local priest's efforts to take a girl deemed to be a witch (Claire Foy) to a remote monastery, where she can be dealt with, and, they hope, the plague will be ended.
Eventually agreeing to the task, Behman leads a rag-tag group across dodgy bridges, through foggy forests and toward the monastery that holds a biblical book which contains the cantations required to deal with the plague-spreading witch.
With Hellboy delivering such gems as "did you see that priest's face, it's like someone pi**ed in his holy water!" and "I saved your ass a hundred times," you know you're not watching a movie inspired by The Witchfinder General.
Indeed, there's no subtletly here, rather, the hackneyed, cliched plot and utterly atrocious dialogue present a film that seems to be revelling in the possibility that it might be a contender for 'so bad it's good' cult status.
The largely American cast make no efforts to hide their accents despite dialogue written in Ye Olde English, albeit from the pen of a scriptwriter who most probably didn't bother researching a word, which leads to exchanges such as:
"Who controls your insolent tongue?" asks a posh priest of Behman and Felson.
"Let's get the hell outta here," replies Cage in a thick Yank accent.
It's bizarre stuff, particularly when the ever-dependable Stephen Graham turns up as the group's guide and, in an apparent effort to fit in, puts on his best New York twang.
By the final act, the special effects have taken hold and a winged, nattering beast has one pondering the question, why didn't it just fly to the monastery in the first place? And why is Nic Cage so bad at waving a sword around? And what on Earth did that pre-credits sequence have to do with anything!?
Such questions remain futile, however, as this is about Nic Cage's hair as much as anything, and like his hair, lacks any real depth, sheen or style.
For those of you tickled by Cage's assault on a tree with a baseball bat in Knowing, there's a hilarious moment involving the actor, a flaming torch, and a double take. If anything, it's worth seeing for that moment alone.
"We're nearing the end," declares one character as the final act commences. Unless you're watching it on Sky+ x30, you're not near enough.
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