For Renny Harlin, the spiral from A-list action (“Die Hard 2”) to B-movie cheese (“12 Rounds”) started with the gloriously hammy pirate flick “Cutthroat Island” and kept coming with the vastly underrated “Long Kiss Good Night,” followed by the already-covered brilliance of “Deep Blue Sea.” But his 2006 offering, “The Covenant,” has nothing to do with pirates or genetically-tampered sharks and instead falls upon another familiar source of B-movie material: teenagers.
Way back in 1692, a cabal of five magically-empowered families in Ipswich, Massachusetts agree to hide their abilities to protect themselves from persecution – well, almost. One family refuses to give up their power, and is summarily banished. Flash forward to present day, where this eponymous Covenant has given way to four teenagers with limitless magical abilities that come at a horrifying price – overwhelming addiction and premature aging. Of course, this doesn’t stop the youngsters from doing all the things wild and crazy kids do at their age, including jumping (or driving) off impossibly high places. The so-called Sons of Ipswich include the responsible Caleb (Steven Strait), the brash Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), the jealous Reid (Toby Hemingway) and the reserved Tyler (Chase Crawford). Strange, undeniably supernatural events occur throughout Ipswich with the arrival of newcomer Chase Collins (Sebastian Stan), whom the Sons of Ipswich ultimately discover is a descendant of the banished family. Possessing the same abilities of his peers, he ruthlessly endangers Pogue’s girlfriend Kate (Jessica Lucas) and Caleb’s love interest Sarah (Laura Wenham) to bring about the ultimate magical confrontation.
When you’ve got four daredevil protagonists with vast magical powers, you better have the cinematic guts to back it up – which is mostly what Renny Harlin does. From high speed collisions to creepy hordes of spiders, Harlin imbues the movie with the same enthusiastic spectacle of his other works. But while Harlin is up for the challenge, the script is not. The mythology seems pretty much underwritten – like the movie in general. The role and tutelage of the Ipswich Sons is only lightly touched upon. The script manages to lose track of lesser Covenant members like Reid and Tyler, and despite a creepy build-up, the fight between Caleb and Chase ultimately comes down them shooting “Power Bubbles” at each other – yeah, it’s just as underwhelming as it sounds. Ultimately, “The Covenant” falls into the same trap the “Highlander” films fell into, with the vagueness of the story actually hindering the plot instead of highlighting it.
Still, like most Renny Harlin movies, “The Covenant” is inexplicably fun to watch, despite the shortcomings of the plot. Perhaps even more so than action, Harlin’s touch is seen in the setting as he vibrantly depicts the autumn Massachusetts landscape and Gothic Spenser Academy in a stunning visual. Even though more than a few characters go underutilized, the movie remains well-cast with many in this flick going on to roles in shows like “Friday Night Lights” and “Gossip Girl.” All in all, “The Covenant” is a serviceable B-flick, linking the back-to-school vibe of September to the month-long horror movie marathon that is October.
You can own “The Covenant” on DVD for $7.92 shipped at DeepDiscount.