Have you ever wondered what would happen if they remade The Craft but as a total sausage-fest? No? Well, neither have I, but The Covenant still got made. In fact, after reading 69 negative reviews, a personal low even for this column, it’s hard to imagine anyone except director Renny Harlin thought this was a good idea. Yes, dear readers, that is the same Renny Harlin who gave us that stirring and awe-inspiring speech from Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea, only to have him devoured by a genetically-engineered shark mere seconds later. Looking back on it, I don’t know why I’m surprised Harlin produced another crappy movie, when he was doing so well before…
But to be fair, The Covenant transcends crap. It’s somehow worse than crap. It is the cinematic equivalent of a dog eating its own shit and shitting it out again. Apologies for the graphic depiction, but there is really no way to do this film justice in its wretchedness. Although there are a myriad of things to hate about The Covenant, it’s hard to know where to begin. I guess my biggest issue with the film is that it wants to be too many things. It’s desperate attempts to be “hip” and “with it” betray Harlin’s unfamiliarity with youth culture. Riddled with high school clichés, not a single one of them ringing true to any high school experience, The Covenant isn’t content with just being bad. It’s in your face with its awfulness. Harlin hopes he can distract his audience with special effects and pretty young faces, but even Helen Keller could tell you that The Covenant stinks to high heaven.
Unfortunately, in this modern age, movie-going audiences are so often forced to choose between substance and spectacle. I’m more than willing to admit that I’ve let some movies slide by based on their special effects or their visual appeal. Other times there are movies that have little to no technological sophistication, and therefore are forced to operate solely on their stories and performances. However, to say that The Covenant fails to fall into either category completely ignores its complete and utter lack of charm, in any sense of the word. The plot, when it isn’t predictable, is so wildly absurd that you can’t help but think that three monkeys on a typewriter hammered it out over a long lunch. This might have been forgivable if there was any sort of distraction from the abysmal storytelling. Instead, what Harlin treats his audiences to is wirework and visual effects that look like they were assembled in Windows 95 Paint. It is sincerely some of the most God awful visual effects that have been committed to film, and I’m including the stock footage in Birdemic that still had “Getty Images” stamped on it.
However, there is one thing that The Covenant has going for it, that will appeal to…well, single women and gay men. The Covenant features some of the most blatant displays of “eye candy” that I’ve seen in recent film history. Okay, Magic Mike might give it a run for its money, but seriously, I’m pretty sure Harlin’s casting call couldn’t have said much more than the word “abs.” While this means that The Covenant has one of the prettiest casts, unfortunately, it doesn’t have the most capable cast. I swear, if I have to watch Chace Crawford fumble through one more line of dialogue about the trials and tribulations of being rich and pretty (yes, before Gossip Girl he was still rich and he was still pretty) I will make it my personal mission to make sure the man never works in Hollywood again.
To be honest, I don’t expect much better from Crawford. Most of the other guys in the movie I’ve never seen or heard from again, but there is one actor that I’d like to single out. That is perpetual box-office bombmaker, Taylor Kitsch. Now I’m not one to defend his movie choices (ask Dominick about John Carter and he’ll do it for me) but the man deserves credit for being part of one of my favorite television series of all time, Friday Night Lights. The Covenant was prior to Friday Night Lights, but its still so hard to go back and watch him in this when I’ve already seen what he’s capable of. That is the greatest offense of The Covenant. Hire as many talentless, pretty boy actors as you want, Harlin, but when you misuse Tim Riggins? You’ve got to answer to me. And to Mr. Kitsch? I’d like you to know – I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
The Covenant isn’t quite a disappointment though. I’d have to have some sort of expectations for it in order to be let down. Instead, I just can’t help but wonder how a travesty like this gets made, let alone gets theatrical distribution. Still, as The Covenant’s plot about the ugly history of our nation demonstrates, some things are better left behind us.