Marlon Brando tested film directors the first day of a film shoot. First, he’d give a fully invested, high-quality performance. On take 2, he’d ever so slightly divest the performance emotionally, and fake it.
Then he’d watch which take got picked. If it was the fake one, Brando became disgusted and would only exert himself the bare minimum for the duration of the shoot, considering the venture “pearls before swine.” Understandable.
For many reasons probably, “Seventh Son” is such a venture for Jeff Bridges. Because The Dude, abiding in the “Seventh Son,” is apparently one-upping Brando. The Dude hammeth it up and phoneth it in, outrageously.
You’ve simply never seen such flat-out bad acting from Jeff Bridges. It almost feels like a dare: “Let me just see how bad I can be, without anyone calling me on it.”
Bridges plays Master Gregory, a Wild Bill Hickok-looking “Spook.” The Spooks are a group of witch-hunting knights, of which he’s the last living member of a once-robust order.
Bridges reaches into his grab bag of nutty ways of speaking and unpacks an amalgamation of over-the-top speech mannerisms and facial contortions from previous films such as “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “R.I.P.D.”
Gregory’s nemesis is a witch named Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), with whom he had an early fling. Apparently that’s a thing: a Spook-and-witch fling.
Mother Malkin’s getting ready to bust out of her cage where she’s been confined for dirty deeds, many of them undoubtedly arson, as she doubles as an economy-sized dragon.
The once-a-century Blood Moon will give her power. And this seldom-occurring event’s only a week away! Gregory’s got to train an apprentice to help out, but quick, because the previous Spook apprentice he invested lots of time in, got dead.
Young Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) is living at home with mom (Olivia Williams) and works on the farm; he daydreams. Actually they’re precognitive visions. He’s seeing witches, basically.
And of course there’s a young pretty witch (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander), because—take a wild guess: Tom’s about to become a Spook, and Spooks and witches have flings.
What follows is the standard, comically rushed apprenticeship, followed by close-call escapes from a variety of bad-CGI monsters and ogres, on the way to the mountain boudoir of Mother Malkin.
Who, now that she’s out and about, is still mad at Gregory. Hell hath no fury like an economy-sized dragon scorned, because in ages past, Gregory chose his wife over her.
Based on Joseph Delaney’s “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch,” “Seventh Son” is a lackluster, dimly lit, unenhanced-by-the-3D, stylistically cluttered, under-conceived, bad effects-laden, heroic fantasy-by-the-numbers epic. With a lukewarm hero. And goofball version of The Dude. And flagrant misuse of Julianne Moore.
Universal made this. Universal had also just recently made the similarly bad-CGI, “47 Ronin” with the only other actor on the planet capable of out-duding The Dude—Keanu Reeves. This trend of dudes abiding in bad CGI-driven films, made by Universal, needs to stop.
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Olivia Williams, Djimon Hounsou
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Release date: Feb. 6
2 stars out of 5