Season Of The Witch (15) **

Picture: Andrew Whyte

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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 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.

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.

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

Cage and Perlman try to have fun with their characters' fraternal bond, but the script woefully short-changes both them and us.

The climatic showdown is 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.

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