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Queen It Over

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MOVIE REVIEW

Seize Them! (2024)

This perfectly silly attempt to tell a feminist story set in the Dark Ages is marred by an unusually spiteful attitude to violence. Early on a man is stabbed through the head and delivers a punchline before dropping dead. Later there’s an extended sequence about how difficult it is to throw a body off a cliff in a way which the body’s face is destroyed. It’s this sour tone which lingers despite the cast being a remarkable combination of British comic talent, making “Seize Them!” a misfire.

Queen Dagan (Aimee Lou Wood) is immediately overthrown by Humble Joan (Nicola Coughlan having a wonderful time sneering all over the place) and only rescued from certain murder by Shulmay (Lolly Adefope), one of the palace maids. She has an idea to take Dagan to the coast, where some Viking kings of her acquaintance will certainly raise an army and help Dagan take back her kingdom. So off they march, hotly pursued by Leofwine (Jessica Hynes, who does much better work than her part deserved). But Dagan is still in her red queen robes so Shulmay has the bright idea to enroll “shit-spader” Bobik (Nick Frost, doing his usual stalwart turn) to help them along their journey. After all, no one wants to get too close to three smelly manual laborers dressed in rags. On the promise of an earldom, Bobik obliges, and off they pop on their long walk to the coast, having adventures along the way.

Writer Andy Riley, who’s largely worked on British television, and director Curtis Vowell, who’s directed two other movies in addition to New Zealand soap operas, were clearly aiming to tell a modern story about the downsides of privilege and the importance of self-confidence. But the unpleasantly blithe violence completely undermines Ms. Wood’s bravura and unselfconsciously funny turn as the spoiled madam slowly coming to realize that her history of trauma doesn’t excuse her appalling behavior. When the kings show up (played by John Macmillan and Paul Kaye with matching Swedish accents), even their over-the-top taste for gore isn’t remotely funny. This means their quips are not just tasteless but in bad taste. It’s a pity, because the final message is actually delightful, and gives proper due to Ms. Adefope’s solid performance. It also includes an apology for all the swearing, at which no one in the Britain would bat an eye even for the youngest teens.

So the question becomes why Mr. Vowell and Mr. Riley felt the need to add so much callous violence. The answer seems to be that they could think of no other way to make a movie with four female leads better known for television appeal to young men. Ms. Coughlan is a star very truly on the rise; Ms. Adefope and Ms. Wood are not very far behind her; and Ms. Hynes has been a beloved British institution since the first episode of “Spaced.” If this had been less mean-spirited and more focused on the tactics women use to jockey for power and control it would have been a much stronger story. Unfortunately, by attempting to be all things to all people, this movie truly works for no one at all.

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