Actors outshine their lines

There's something awe-inspiring about watching world-class actors saw away on material that is sheer twaddle.

That's the spectacle to be beheld in "Warlock," a zany exercise in horror now on a few local screens. Julian Sands, so convincing in "A Room With a View," plays an evil male witch from Massachusetts of 1691, who, by courtesy of a strange cloud that looks like milk and water fighting each other in a goldfish bowl, ends up in Los Angeles in 1988.


He is pursued by "witchfinder" Giles Redfern, played by another brilliant Brit, the Richard E. Grant of "Withnall and I," and, currently, "L.A. Story." The warlock is in search of the three parts of the witch's anti-bible, which, if located, can cause the world to de-create. Why he would want to do this is never explained.

The movie is a festival of the ludicrous. Perhaps the most absurd touch concocted by director Steve Miner was to give the warlock powers of flight, so Sands spends a good deal of the movie floating 15 feet above the ground, looking extremely uncomfortable, as if he doesn't quite trust the wires that hold him up.


Meanwhile, Grant takes up with a hippy-dippy-chick played by Lori Singer, who was last year's Julia Roberts and it's easy to see why she's not this year's. The movie takes the form of a chase, with poor Grant referring to Singer's Corvair as a "coach" as the two of them bomb across the southwest in search of the bad boy in the black cape.

And yet the two actors are so brilliant they give material a dignity it in no way deserves. Sands is icy and evil and has a curious irony about him; he shows you how much fun it would be to be that bad. The real discovery is Grant, however. Usually typecast as a slick sleaze (you would expect him to play the Warlock), he manages to make his Giles Redfern both human and heroic.


Starring Julian Sands and Richard T. Grant.

Directed by Steve Miner.

Released by Trimark.

Rated R.