Sir Knight Nicolas in a 1300s slog

Nicolas Cage (right, with Stephen Campbell Moore) battles infidels, wolves, plague, and anachronistic dialogue.
Nicolas Cage (right, with Stephen Campbell Moore) battles infidels, wolves, plague, and anachronistic dialogue.
Posted: January 08, 2011

Nicolas Cage's fanboy inclinations have served him well over the years, if not, in every instance, his audience: Ghost Rider, Knowing, the National Treasure pics - supernatural comic-booky ventures that raked in millions.

Whether the murky, Middle Ages-set Season of the Witch will follow suit, or fall into the flop column of Cage's filmography, it's hard to figure why the actor bothered. Reunited with his Gone in Sixty Seconds director, Dominic Sena, Cage appears as a knight of the Crusades, slogging across the continents, slaying infidels and unbelievers and anyone else who gets in his way.

There isn't a minute when it looks like he's having fun.

Perhaps that's because it's the 1300s, and plague and pestilence (the most oft-used word in Bragi F. Schut's screenplay) have left those still alive in sour, dyspeptic moods. Fear and dread pervade the land. Even the lusty wenches look depressed.

And then, after a trudge of battlefield montages, Cage's Behman and his fellow knight, Felson (the hulking, one-note Ron Perlman), decide to call it quits. The stink of death has finally gotten them down.

But before the two deserters get a chance to say "Let's blow this popsicle stand" (not an exact quote, but representative of the script's general anachronistic trend), they're talked into escorting a woman accused of witchcraft to a monastery, where she will be put on trial for her life.

"If she is not what you say, she will not be yours to burn," cautions Cage, a grave wince moving across his face like a cloud across the moon.

Is this girl (Claire Foy) guilty of consorting with the Devil, or just another scapegoat for the zealous monks as they cast about for someone to blame for the Black Plague? Only a long trek through forests crawling with wolves, over vertiginous rope bridges, and around muddy medieval villages full of, yes, pestilence will tell.

Note to Donovan fans: "Season of the Witch" is not included on the soundtrack.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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