Nicolas Cage is evidently an actor who prizes quantity over quality.

Since the beginning of 2000, he has released 27 films in the UK ranging from the sublime (Adaptation, Kick-Ass) to the completely ridiculous (Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man).

If he was a little more selective with his roles, perhaps we wouldn't have to suffer hokum such as Season Of The Witch, a swords and sorcery yarn which uses the bloodshed and religious fervour of the 14th century Crusades as a backdrop to a battle of wits between two knights and a girl accused of witchcraft.

Their task: To deliver the demonic damsel to the church for cleansing.

Our task: To stay awake as first-time feature screenwriter Bragi Schut engineers his ramshackle medieval road trip as a series of plodding set pieces.

Intentional humour, such as when the swarthy knights pay homage to the oft-misquoted line from Jaws ("You're gonna need a bigger boat!") by drolly quipping, "We're going to need more holy water!" are offset by unintentional hilarity and snorts of derision.

Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and best friend Felson (Ron Perlman) are Crusaders who turn their backs on the church and return home to discover that the Black Plague has ravaged their beloved land.

Sorcery is blamed for the fatal outbreak and Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee) summons the two knights to his deathbed, where he implores them to undertake a perilous mission to transport a young witch (Claire Foy) to a remote abbey, where the monks will perform a ritual to purge her tortured soul.

Wizened priest Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore), grieving knight Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), disgraced swordsman Hagamar (Stephen Graham) and headstrong youth Kay (Robert Sheehan) join Behmen and Felson on this quest.

When some of the party begin to question if the girl is really a witch, Debelzaq growls menacingly, "She sees the weakness that lies in our hearts and she uses it against us."

Season Of The Witch lacks suspense or horror, steadily whittling down the cast through a series of trials.

Thus the knights must out-run a pack of ravenous wolves and traverse a rickety rope bridge with rotting wooden timbers that seem incapable of holding the weight of the witch's prison carriage.

Cage and Perlman try to have fun with their characters' fraternal bond – "What is that smell?" asks one; "That would be you," snorts his buddy – but the script woefully short-changes both them and us.

Supporting cast inhabit their lifeless, two-dimensional characters purely as potential victims for the forces of darkness, while the climatic showdown is completely laughable because an army of reanimated corpses miraculously doubles in number in the blink of a computer-generated eye to provide a sterner test of the heroes' mettle.

Behold the black magic of the movies.


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