Just downloaded this as couldn’t bring myself to see it in the cinema after some pretty bad reviews. So what do I think?
Well, it starts with the trial of three witches on a bridge. They are cast off said bridge with nooses round their necks and die instantly. A considerably more humane approach to hanging than was the norm at the time. A hanging in the Middle Ages tended to involve prolonged strangulation and a bit of dancing by the dying criminal for the crowd’s entertainment. Witches were more likely to be dunked in the water to see if they floated as part of a trial by ordeal. Then they’d be burnt. The witch burning mania in Europe was more a product of the 16th and 17th centuries than the Middle Ages by the way.
Anyway – at the risk of publishing a spoiler – one of the witches comes back to life and kills the priest who condemned her. So – this isn’t social realism.
The movie is set in the Crusades but then early fourteenth century dates flash up – wrong of course. I assume the reason for this duff chronology is that the dates should be closer to the Black Death because there is a strong plague theme in the movie. By the early 1300s, the Crusades were over – Acre had fallen in the Holy Land – and the Templars had been disbanded. But that doesn’t stop movie stars Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman playing Templar knights – who get drunk and carouse with women in their spare time. So much for the monastic vows of the Knights Templar.
As usual, Ron Perlman delivers his lines as if English wasn’t his first language (is it?) and while other characters speak Medieval-ese, Perlman delivers macho one-liners that I think he last used in Alien Resurrection. The two heroes leave the Templars but continuously refer to quitting “the service of the church”. Now, I don’t know what rogue Templars would really have said but I’m guessing they would have quite “the service of the Order” as church and Templars were not necessarily synonymous.
It may even be that they’re not intended to be Templars – strictly speaking. There is a scene round the camp fire where Cage says they were made holy knights for two years by the church in return for the remission of sins. That’s not how you became a Templar. But in the earlier battle scenes, they dress in what can only be described as Templar-esque mantles. I dunno – go figure.
There is an amusing character called Hagemar the Swindler who has been put in the stocks for selling false relics – including the tale of the ass ridden by Mary in the biblical flight from Egypt. I did laugh at that.
Great anachronistic line from Nicholas Cage after knocking out a witch with the pommel of his sword, he says – “now she’s sedated”. Six hundred years before the invention of the modern anesthetic. This witch – or alleged witch if you prefer – has apparently brought the plague to a kingdom. Perlman and Cage must transport this wicked woman to a monastery to be exorcised. And so begins the long second act of the film.
Anyway – enough spoilers – it’s not that bad. But don’t expect a classy movie. Just a diverting evening in with some popcorn.