Season of the Witch

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You have to hand it to Nicolas Cage, a gifted, versatile actor, who immerses himself in almost every role he plays, turning in intense performances that often elevate the disappointing pictures he is in and the trashy material he is given to recite.

 
This is certainly the case on “Season of the Witch,” a bizarre, overwrought Medieval tale, that despite being set in the distant past, feels anachronistic in many details, particularly the dialogue, which is inconsistent and often unintentionally funny.
 
Early on, it’s established that the years of brutal religious warfare have stripped Behmen (Nicolas Cage) of his penchant bloodshed, and even tarnished his loyalty to the Church.
In many ways, Behmen feels like a contemporary hero, a man tired of his line of work, wary of the inherent anxieties in his life, thus looking forward to a quiet retirement.
 
But it is not to be had. Behmen and his friend Felson (Ron Perlman) are surprised to find their homeland deserted, unaware that Europe has been decimated by the Black Plague.
 
While searching for food and supplies at the MarburgPalace, the two knights are apprehended and called before the local Cardinal (Christopher Lee) to explain their unscheduled return from the East.
 
The dying Cardinal threatens the pair with prison for desertion, unless they agree to a dangerous mission.  Complicating matters is the Cardinal’s dungeon holding of a young woman (Claire Foy), who is accused of being a witch, charged with bringing the Plague with her to the community.
 
In a plot that’s utterly preposterous and predictable, the only way this Odd Couple (made even odder by the casting) can redeem themselves is by accompanying the girl to a distant abbey where she is to stand trial.
 
In a rather cheesy and disbelievable way, we are treated with scenes that depict the girl’s brutal mistreatment in prison. We know that it’s only a matter of time before her abuse, stemming from her powerless position against the accusations of church officials, would touch the heart and soul of Behman, and make him committed to her salvation.
 
All along Behman is convinced that she is merely a convenient scapegoat, fearing that she will be condemned without a fair hearing. Seeing no choice but helping her, Behman agrees to escort her.
 
From that point on, the movie shifts into a mildly engaging story of treacherous journey, a long and arduous route, taken by Behman, the girl, his loyal companion Felson, and an assortment of strangely colorful figures.
 
The wild bunch includes a well-traveled con man who knows the countryside (Stephen Graham), an eager young man who aspires to knighthood (Robert Sheehan), a bitter knight who has lost his family to the Plague (Ulrich Thomsen) and a naïve priest (Stephen Campbell Moore).
 
Like every road picture, the writers pile up annoying people and disturbing events along the way, which gives Sena the opportunity to exploit the diverse locations where the movie was shot. Thus, the group moves through uncharted territory, across sheer-walled gorges wolf-infested forests, places that we have seen before in other mythic Medieval sagas.
 
The only tension resides in finding out who would be the first (and how many men) of Behman’s fellow travelers will meet adversaries, disasters, and misfortunes, which would take their lives.
 
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