The only question that’s worth considering in Seventh Son is whether this all-star B-movie is bad enough to cost Julianne Moore her Still Alice Oscar. And the answer to that is, “Not really.”
A sword-and-sorcery epic built around Jeff Bridges, Bridges’ curmudgeonly accent, Bridges’ Wild Bill 1 / 4R.I.P.D. goatee and Ben Barnes, it has Moore as the villain, a witch whom Bridges’ character must kill.
Playing a witch, as Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon will tell you, calls for “big.” Moore is the queen of small – intimate, internal. So as Mother Malkin, out to avenge herself on the “spook,” Gregory (Bridges), Moore is miscast.
That’s OK, though, because Bridges is big enough for the both of them. Gregory is a grizzled, Falstaffian knight, all tight-lipped boozy bluster and wit. He’s in need of a new apprentice, a “Seventh Son” of a seventh son. That’s where Tom (Barnes of Prince Caspian) comes in. He’s a pig farmer’s son, handy with a knife, carrying a magical amulet from his mother (Olivia Williams) as his protection.
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The old knight is full of wisdom, which he shares. They’re entering a world “where legends and nightmares are real.” There are all sorts of spirits, monsters and witches, and Gregory knows all their names.
“Stone chuckers,” he mutters. “Cattle rippers. The names are fairly…self-evident.”
He exorcises children and vanquishes monsters – for a price.
“Flattery is fine,” he growls, “gold is finer.”
The plot, taken from a Joseph Delaney novel, drives spook and apprentice toward a final fight with the witch queen, her allies (Djimon Hounsou among them) and their minions. Alicia Vikander of Anna Karenina is Alice, a temptation to Tom, and possibly a witch. She’s a looker with little screen presence.
Sergey Bodrov (Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan) directs and stages some splendid if repetitious fights and flights,most of them involving digital dragons and such. This is strictly by-the-numbers movie-making, genre work that makes the most of our lowered expectations.
Still, it’s great seeing Bridges give fair value in a part befitting an aging warhorse reduced to pitching, on the Super Bowl, a Dreaming with Jeff album designed to put us to sleep. Gregory, gumming his zingers like a classic coot from any number of Westerns, manages to keep us awake for the 104 minutes of Seventh Son. Barely.
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Cast: Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander
Rated: PG-13 (intense fantasy violence and action throughout, frightening images, brief strong language)
Running time: 104 min.