Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Director: Christophe Gans
Samuel Le Bihan/Gregoire
In 18th century France, Gregoire de Chevalier of Fronsac (Le Bihan) and his Indian blood brother Mani (Dacascos) are sent to the hills of Gevaudan to look into the killings of women and children by a mysterious beast. High flying chop-sockey kicks, a rabid creature and lots of spilled plasma ensue.
In 1765, an enigmatic animal diced up over 100 poor souls in the mountains of south-western France. The creature was never identified. Using this true fact as a springboard, "Brotherhood of the Wolf" takes us on one zany, genre-bending, bitch slapping ride. Who knew that injecting horror, period piece and martial arts ingredients into the cinematic blender would give way to such a tasty milkshake? A few horror films came to mind while watching this schizophrenic puppy. The absorbing premise rings a lot like “Sleepy Hollow”, one particularly exhilarating “catch the beast” sequence could’ve been lifted directly from “Predator” and some of the twists had “From Hell” written all over them. Top that with a pure “Victorian” era setting (I loved the costumes) and wildly, expertly shot, LSD-inspired martial art brawls and you get one trippy mix!
I loved this flick but in blocks. Some sequences really worked and the arresting style which the director slaps our way made them even more enthralling to watch. You dig mood and gripping atmosphere? You’ll be a happy camper here. Gans sure knows how to shoot falling rain and snow to "up" the ambience of a scene, that’s fer sure! The same can be said about the polished, edge-of-your-seat healthy doses of violence. Talk about an assault on the senses! I was lapping it up like a hungry slut giving head. But the salt in the coffee is that the film does at times mess up when it comes to its substance. There’s a prominent love thang that is clumsily developed and takes up way too much room. The movie could’ve easily done without it. Also, the nature of the beast was a tad too layered for my taste buds; I would’ve preferred simpler and more supernatural roots behind the madness. In consequence, the flick wound up dragging at times, especially during its third act. Every time you think it’s done, it goes on for one more round (kind of like my last bootie call). I remember thinking to myself while sitting in the theatre: “I dub thee, the movie that will never cum”.
But you don’t see a flick like this everyday and if patience is one of your virtues, you will be highly rewarded. I’m talking about crazy “John Woo” style martial arts fisticuffs, suspense-filled monster attacks, a few kool plot twists, a mucho slick lead hero (does he ever whoop that ass for the finale or what…wow!), gore galore and all of that wrapped in sumptuous eye candy. "Brotherhood of the Wolf" tries to give us everything we dig about movies in one package and it almost fully succeeds. Hold on to your rum and coke, this one is going to leave you with hangover…IN A GOOD WAY!
This one delivers and then some. We get chewed on corpses, ugly taxidermy sequences, lots of slit throats, bloody stabbings, vicious creature attacks and blood splashing like nobody’s business.
Samuel Le Bihan (Gregoire) gives a charismatic and engaging show. I was on his side the whole way. By the way, is it me but or did he look exactly like David Lee Roth when he let his hair down? I was expecting a rendition of “I’m Just A Gigolo” at any moment. I predict big things for this dude. Vincent Cassel (Jean-Francois) plays the enigmatic weirdo very well. Emilie Dequenne (Maryanne) does what she has to do with her limited part and kinda looks like Renee Zellweger. Monica Bellucci (Sylvia) has a strong presence and exudes captivating sexual energy. Loved her. I didn’t get much out of Jeremy Renier (Thomas) but that wasn’t due to his acting abilities; his character is just not very interesting. Marc Dacascos (Mani) struggles with his French (kinda fits the part though), but man does the dude know how to bring on the pain!
T & A
We get lots of female nudity courtesy of a whore house sequence. The skin highlight though is definitely Monica Bellucci (Sylvia) in the buff; baby looks yummy! Male stuff worth mentioning: Marc Dacascos (Mani) goes shirtless and wears a loin cloth. Gotta love the French!
Gans is a “bullet time” whore, he loves that shite and uses it as much as he can. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it kept me engaged on a visual level. Add to that, energetic camera movements, slow motion, atmosphere up the wazoo and tightly shot fight sequences and you get a well-rounded directorial effort.
A varied score that keeps up with the different tones of the film.
You have to respect this film’s ambition. It tackles many genres in one offering and hits the mark most of the time. Yes, the script doesn’t always measure up and it does go on for too long but the hyper violent battles, the aura of mystery, the tension-filled beast attacks, the engaging lead character and the adrenaline pumped directing all make this bad boy way worthwhile. If you can get over the dull parts, you’ll have a freaking blast!!! I sure did.
Christophe Gans’ film “Crying Freeman” was never released in any form in North America. Why? It looks dope! It’s based on a comic book and also stars Marc Dacascos.
Brotherhood was shot in Esparro, Pyrenees, France.