Review: “Brotherhood of the Wolf”

More and more we’re seeing French films crossing over into Western culture, especially as the industry over there starts dealing with film budgets to equal or supersede many small-moderate budget American studio films. Like many European films though we’ve only really been exposed to the quirky comedies or hard core dramas, but now other genres are beginning to slip through.

One such project is this, a lavishly produced action-packed supernatural thriller which includes three actors familiar to Western audiences – Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci and Mark Dacascos. ‘Wolf’ is a melding of what many politely term ‘genre’ movies. There’s werewolf elements, Machiavellian political manipulations, gory horror, supernatural and spiritual themes, grand landscapes, marshes, fogs, bogs, sword fighting, gun fighting, martial arts, bordellos with nudity galore, mysterious black-clad mistresses with razor sharp fans, LOTS of leather, and a great big beastie – you name it as its all here.

But does it really gel? The hedonistic mix of American, European and Hong Kong cinematic elements never quite adds up to the sum of its parts. Taken seriously as a film its overly long, stumbles on its feet in the second half and all up doesn’t add up to much. Yet if you look at it for what it is – the French trying to do a Hollywood-esque blockbuster, you’ll appreciate the sheer entertainment value of the whole thing.

More than anything else, ‘Wolf’ is a guilty pleasure for any genre fan. A little on the talky side yes, but the action is refreshingly effective and imaginative, the atmosphere quite eerie, and the characters unique and interesting. Gans directing skill includes sweeping vistas, trick FX photography, and lots of martial arts in abundance used to much greater effect than another French period piece style tale of recent times (aka. the woeful “The Musketeer”).

Acting wise there’s solid performers all round with Dacascos turning heads as the Iriquois Indian whose amazing with a mohawk, Cassel as a somewhat slimy and resentful one-armed son of an aristocrat, and Bellucci as a black-clothed Italian temptress. All this support easily outshines the fine but somewhat lacklustre leads Samuel Le Bihan and Emilie Dequenne.

FX and production values for the most part are quite effective aside from one creation which looks to have been made from the same computer program used to create the creature in “The Relic”. Music and sound is used quite effectively but the ending isn’t as satisfying as it should be. Still, its great to see such a classy looking horror-themed movie production.