The Black Plague was quite possibly the most deadly pandemic in history. For some people, Nicolas Cage is the Black Plague of acting. They feel he and his doctorate of overacting are as deadly to a film as the plague was to Europe in the 14h century. And judging by Cage’s average box office draw over the last decade, they may very well have a point. I however am not one of these people. I like Nicolas Cage. I like his fanatical brand of overacting at every turn and I generally find something to like about the films he stars in.
Cage’s latest acting adventure, and let’s face it every film with Cage is an adventure of some sort, is “Season of the Witch”. Set during the mid 14th century at the height of the Black Plague, this medieval supernatural adventure thriller, star Cage as the crusader Behman, who has deserted the cause after disagreeing with his superiors. Accompanying Behman is his surly best friend Felson, played by Ron Perlman. Behman and Felson are recognized as deserters and given the task of escorting an accused witch, who is suspected of having caused the plague, to a distant monastery for trial.
Cage and Perlman approach their characters in two different ways. Perlman seems to realize the film and its script are hokey and as such he plays it up. Cage on the other hand plays Behman straight and oddly enough the yin and yang of the two really works well. The two work well off of each other and their interactions are the best parts of the film. Sadly, they are also the only really good parts of the film.
“Season of the Witch” is mediocre through and through. As a made for television movie one might be able to excuse the ridiculous dialog, the dull action set pieces and atrocious use of CGI but as a $40 million film, it just doesn’t hold up to snuff. Worst of all though is the direction the film take over the last act. First time screenwriter Bragi Schut crams every cliché imaginable into the final 30 minutes of the film. Werewolves, demons and zombies all make an appearance and each one is more ridiculous than the last.
On top of the weak screenplay, director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish) seems to have drastically lost his way as a filmmaker. None of the stylish flair of his previous films is evident in “Season of the Witch” and the pacing of the film is all over the place. However the biggest issue with the film is that it doesn’t know if it should take itself seriously or if it should allow itself to unleash its campy side. Striding that fine line in between seriousness and camp just ends up making the film unexciting.
The best thing that can be said about “Season of the Witch” is that it is watchable. It is probably the perfect film to catch channel surfing at 3AM on a Saturday night but as far as going to see it in theaters, don’t.
2 out of 5.