Vin Diesel is kind of an enigma. The first, second, and third impression of him is that he’s a dumb but sincere bro type who honestly believes he’s making great movies. But every now and then it seems like he might actually be in on the joke: he does an interview that borders on articulate or delivers a particularly bad line with just a little too much brain damage to be serious or shows up on stilts to do the Groot voice or whatever. When these things happen I have to wonder if Vin Diesel is just another character. Maybe Mark Sinclair is fully aware that his movies are dumb (if sometimes enjoyable) trash, but also realizes that making dumb trash is a great job if you want to get paid millions of dollars drive cool cars and make out with Michelle Rodriguez. The character “Vin Diesel” is the kind of slow-witted meathead that Sinclair thinks people who don’t realize his movies are dumb want their action heroes to be.
Whether Vin Diesel is a character or just a stage name, most of his movies definitely fit into the “big dumb action” category, often with the “dumb” every bit as prominent as the “action.” The terrible one liners, cliches, and one-dimensional characters aren’t a problem as long as they’re the right kind of dumb for the movie. In fact, sometimes they make it that much better. After all, the stuff between the action is really just there because we can watch car crashes without any context on Youtube, so they’ve got to have something holding them together to get our ten bucks.
When I saw the trailer for The Last Witch Hunter, I got psyched for some top-notch Vin Diesel-style dumb action. I was imagining a variation on Van Helsing: just a bunch of big cool fights and special effects with some nonsense in between. Unfortunately, The Last Witch Hunter is no Van Helsing. A big problem is that the fight scenes and special effects completely fail to deliver. They’re slightly more elaborate than what you’d see on a TV show like Sleepy Hollow or Supernatural. What really kills it, though, is that while the movie is undoubtedly dumb, everybody involved seems convinced it’s not dumb. It’s almost like they think they’re making a real movie. Maybe Vin Diesel is real.