The following piece contains complete spoilers for the film.
These days, movie trailers are such an exacting, cynical science that if you aren't getting spoiled for the entire premise (or at least the whole first act - see: Iron Man) it's reasonable to suspect that the studio has something to hide. Not necessarily a plot twist or a surprise cameo, though - usually they're trying to hide the storyline itself, because they think if the audience knew what it was in for they wouldn't show up.
This would seem to be the case with Winter's Tale, (loosely based on a novel by Mark Halprin) whose trailer and Valentine's Day release date promise little more than a succession of vaugely-connected Paperback Romance cover-imagery - Period Dress! Charming Rogue! Central Park at Dusk! Pretty Horse!!! - but which turns out to be one of the most bizarre (and bizarrely-terrible) big studio head-scratchers of the new century. The sort of film that might be dreamed up as a satire of a production run-amuck in a backstage Hollywood comedy, but terrifyingly (and yet, hypnotically) real. Cinemaphiles rightly bemoan the Studio Machine's tendency to grind down and cast out genuine auteur brilliance, but in truth that is a side-effect of said Machinery's true function of keeping movies like Winter's Tale from happening.
As I rose from my seat a few hours ago, surrounded by other speechless, shell-shocked critics (including a similarly-baffled young woman, lest you think this a case of the Old Boy's Club ganging up on a "girl movie") fumbling for a description of what we'd just endured; the only encapsulation I could muster was that we'd witnessed Highlander as retold with Lisa Frank stickers by a 4 year-old girl to her plush dolls and then re-adapted back into a movie by Tommy Wiseau. Though it is quite plausibly one of those singular works of failed art that can only be properly critiqued by simply describing it; I recount it to you now less as an exercise in criticism and more as an act of psychological purgation. I am not so much a reviewer of this film as I am survivor... a veteran of Winter's Tale. I recount my story so that I might be free of it.
The film stars Colin Farrell, whom we first meet as the baby of Russian immigrants being turned away from Ellis Island in the 1890s. They set him adrift in a model ship so that he, at least, might reach American shores safely. (The ship is marked with the copper nameplate "City of Justice," which will turn out to count as this film's version of subtle mythic allusions.) He grows up into a handsome thief/safecracker named Peter Lake (somehow saddled with an Irish brogue thicker than Farrell's real one) who's locked in some kind of one-man war with an army of pure-evil street thugs in matching bowler hats. (So that's what happened to the Bad Gang from Newsies!)
This adult-newsboy Putty Patrol is led by Russell Crowe's mumbling, scenery-devouring Pearly Soames, a scarred gangster who rants about "blackenin' souls and crushin' miracles!", collects pilfered jewels and gold because he can use them to turn moonlight into prismatic future-telling holograms (seriously), and has sworn to kill Peter because the rapscallion tried to reform New York's thief guilds to steal without killing people. For Soames, collateral-tragedy is the whole point of crime. Peter is rescued from certain death at their hands by a white horse that shows up out of nowhere, genuflects so he can mount it, and then jumps clean over the villains by sprouting Pegasus wings made of light-energy.
"Damn!" curses Soames, "He's got The Horse." Yeah. Later, Peter's Magical Black Man friend will glance to Magic Horse and deadpan "I was wonderin' when you'd get here."