Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Review Date: February 09, 2002
Director: Christophe Gans
Writer: Christophe Gans, Stephane Cabel
Producers: Samuel Hadida, Richard Grandpierre
Samuel Le Bihan
Loosely based on actual events, this film takes place in France during the 1760s, where an unknown beast is chewing folks up by the countryside. The upper-class back in Paris aren't happy to hear about this ongoing problem, so they send a dude down there to check it all out. What he finds is something which isn't easily explained or believed by anyone, so lots of ass-kicking and beast-chasing ensues.
Here's a French movie which surprisingly manages to work as a period piece, a horror movie, a romance, a mystery, a martial arts extravaganza and many other sub-genres, while at the same time, developing one too many of them and seemingly going on forever (how many endings does this baby have??). I wish it would have realized that its basic core about a "crazy beast on the loose" was enough to satisfy the film as a whole, instead of double-dipping into its pot of genres once too often. But having said that, it certainly doesn't take away from the film's many greater attributes, like its stunning cinematography, plush visuals, awesome action sequences and even more so, its impressive ability to move from one suspenseful scene to another one about something entirely different, with remarkable ease. The actors were also very good, including Samuel Le Bihan, who went from looking like Christopher Lambert to David Lee Roth by the end of the film, but kept the flick moving with his ability to balance the fear, the romance, the flighty and the action-packed, and Mark Dacascos, as this trusty Indian mate, riding by his side and kicking ass whenever need be. Sure, I could have done without the zillionth Indian hocus-pocus angle or the romance with the countess (although the tryst with the Italian whore was solid), but all in all, many of the film's ideas were well meched together and provided for a novel approach to a movie.
In fact, how many Hollywood movies do you see that take chances such as this one? Granted, the film isn't perfect, it's got some obvious flaws and its ultimate revelation has been seen in many other movies before, but the overall product remains still...quite impressive. In fact, I hope that its success, and great word of mouth, gives others the balls to take more chances in their future projects. The film's also got style up the wazoo, plenty of colors, creepiness and atmosphere (some Tim Burton influences, perhaps?), camera-tricks with slow-motion, fast-motion, overheads, cut-edits and freeze-frames, to impress all style whores (guilty!). The beast attacks, in particular, are masterfully handled and really give you a sense of the animal's wicked and unstoppable nature. Of course, if you look into the film a little deeper, I'm sure that you could find some rinky-dink faults here and there (as I did), but I would suggest looking at it as a whole and appreciating it for the great job that it does in entertaining and providing fresh meat to the table. Oh yeah, there's also some T&A for the kids, some deep-rooted narrative resolution for the adults and plenty of swash-buckling, ass-kicking, beast-taming and bone-crunching for everyone. Sure, it's over the top and invites too many people to the party, but if different and fun is what you want, this French fry is what you should get. And don't forget the mayo on the side (whatever that means).
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian