Movie Review: ‘PILGRIMAGE’ is earnest and gruesome, a combo that doesn’t work

Kip Mooney // Film Critic

PILGRIMAGE
Rated R, 96 min.
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Cast: Tom HollandRichard ArmitageJon Bernthal and Stanley Weber

PILGRIMAGE wants to be BRAVEHEART so bad. It is both earnest and gruesome, which doesn’t exactly work. Severely dull in its first half and breathless in its second, it wants to be a story about upright religious men called on a holy mission, but with plenty of breaks to kick ass.

Tom Holland, so great this year in THE LOST CITY OF Z and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, plays Brother Diarmuid, the youngest monk in a small Irish sect. For centuries, they’ve been entrusted to guard a holy relic. But when the king’s bloodthirsty son (Richard Armitage of THE HOBBIT trilogy) threatens them, they flee with the sacred stone.

Much of the first part of the journey is arduous, for the travelers and for the audience. There’s discussion of religious duty and the meaning of life, but it’s mostly weak conversation from writer Jamie Hannigan, making his feature debut.

But a little over halfway through, savage bandits attack the caravan in a brutal scene that recalls the opening battle in The Revenant. Though it’s nowhere near as skilled or captivating as that film, it at least picks up some steam, even as the corpses pile up.

Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s DAREDEVIL) plays the Mute, a laborer among the monks who doesn’t speak. His meek nature hides his brute strength and intensity. He easily lays waste to half a dozen of the bandits. Bernthal is quite good, even he gets (almost) nothing to say.

But the film’s problem isn’t its acting or staging. It’s because, like too many movies, at war with itself. It wants the profundity of SILENCE with the bloodshed of GLADIATOR. It’s nowhere near as deep as the former and far grosser than the latter. It’s simply a journey not worth taking.

Grade: C+

PILGRIMAGE opens in theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on Friday (8/11).
Dallas: AMC Hickory Creek.

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