“When you deal with dark, dark gets in you.”
Set in another time, that recalls Game of Thrones or perhaps Robin Hood, the story is essentially the sorcerer and apprentice retread. Jeff Bridges plays Master Gregory who has devoted his life to burning witches, and exorcising demons from innocent maidens. He is also likes a drink, he justifies the consumption as a way of “warding off evil spirits”. Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones makes an early exit as one of his apprentices who falls prey to the evil powerful witch, Mother Malkin (Moore). Malkin has the ability to transition into a fiery dragon at a moments notice. Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) is the latest in a longline of Seventh Sons who Gregory recruits, Tom has been having visions, and is a reluctant convert to Master Gregory’s unusual program.
Bodrav understands the qualities of an epic adventure. From widescreen shots of the snow ridden mountain ranges, the film was shot in Canada to a river battle with a giant. The film’s budget is 95 million and the money is not wasted.
Bridges odd performance is a warped caricature of his Rooster Cogburn from 2011s True Grit. Except with an accent I can’t place from a particular region or Country of origin. He grizzles and grunts his way through the pic. It seems one of a series of odd choices in this old fashioned sword and sorcerer adventure yarn. Julianne Moore fresh from her academy award turn in Still Alice has a dramatic change of pace playing an evil witch.
Directed by Russian filmmaker Sergey Bodrov who has previously mounted the impressive Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan and Prisoner of the Mountains both nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2008 Oscars. The film also has a strong pedigree of writers including Steven Knight who scribed Eastern Promises and last years impressive Locke. Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and Matt Greenberg (1408), also lend their talents to adapting the Joseph Delaney bestseller The Spook’s Apprentice. Much of the dialogue is leaden, not helped by the bland delivery of Barnes and Alicia Vikander as his love interest.
The film has a Saturday matinee feel to it, a B picture laced with impressive visual effects and a plot straight from the 1980s. Set your expectations low and you just may be pleasantly surprised.