Director – Christophe Gans
Cast – Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne, Mark Dacascos, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Renier, Jean Yanne, Jean-François Stévenin
Release Year – 2001
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film I had heard much great buzz about through my close friends, but despite me being a fan of direction Christophe Gans for his job with Silent Hill, it just took me a darn long time to give this one a watch. Well the wait is finally over, and the verdict is in: Brotherhood of the Wolf is a great tale that perfectly blends elements of horror with art, fantasy, deception, and many other great ideas in this awesome French tale.
It is 18th century France and Gregoire de Fronsac(Samuel Le Bihan; Frontier(s)), a scientist and former soldier, has been called upon by the King to assist in identifying a deadly beast that has been ravaging the Gevaudan province. Fronsac knows that the beast is not a mere wolf as France’s royalty have claimed it to be, and when a shady deal is made to hide the identity of the beast Fronsac is forced away from Geyaudan forever. However, when his one true love, a royal daughter, beckons him to return to Geyaudan, he returns not only to pursue his love, but rid the province of the deadly beast as well.
Well this was really not the film I expected it to be, and in a way I enjoyed that. The horror element was not as prevalent as I pictured it, especially the werewolf element which was portrayed to be very strong, but in fact was something altogether different that I never saw coming. Multiple genres are mixed in, and it is obvious this flick settled for execution and visuals over a completely cohesive story, but who am I to hate on a film that tries hard and succeeds enough to grant me a fun watch?
The storyline is a complex one, and one that is sure to keep the viewer engaged despite it becoming a bit slow at times during its near 2.5 hour runtime. The basic storyline of Fronsac being called to help identity and hunt the beast was a treat to watch, especially if you are into subjects like animal science. What really surprised me was that this element was not as prevalent on its own as I expected it to be, and we are shown the politics involved in such a case, as well as Fronsac’s romance and gentleman-calling with Marianne. As if any more elements could fit into this film, its 2.5 hour runtime allowed for a sweet addition of religious conspiracy regarding the Roman Catholic Church and how its followers will come up with clever and deadly means to put the fear of God into people, including the King. Some may see this film merely as a visual feast, but this story hits where it needs to hit, and with awesome results.
As far as direction goes Christophe Gans did a fantastic job providing great execution for a film that truly needed it. With a 2.5 hour runtime you are sure to tempt people who hit the “snooze” button and wake up only when the music gets loud, but thanks to Gans’ execution I never once found myself bored when things left the horror realm and toned things down heavily. In fact, Gans left me intrigued with everything that went on in the film, and his pacing is a true testament to how good direction can keep a viewer’s interest regardless of subject matter. So how is the horror? Well…the usage of the “beast” was pretty cool, and while it relies heavily on CGI the beast was pretty damn sweet to watch and did not spare anyone who crossed its path. I was actually very surprised at the amount of action in this flick, especially the fighting scenes that were plentiful and satisfying. I know I have mentioned numerous elements going on in this film, and let’s go ahead and add martial arts to the list. While not nearly as spectacular, this flick at times felt like Hidden Tiger Crouching Dragon with a heavy dose of a blood-thirsty creature lingering around. We get an especially good performance from Mark Dacascos as Mani, an American Indian who is Fronsac’s right hand man. If I have a favorite character in the film, it is definitely Mani thanks to how very well his character was developed, and his ability to kick any and all ass and with the utmost nobility, just like a true Native American. My one beef with Gans’s direction was his editing during the fight scenes, which I found to be very shotty and poorly placed quite often. Bodies hitting the floor in a beautifully-shot film never looked as amateur as they did in this one, which unfortunately leads me to believe that they were purposely edited to look as they did, and that is hard to fathom.
Overall, this is an awesome film that brings a very different take to the werewolf/wolf horror sub-genre in that it really does not rely on a lot of horror but comes with many unique and well executed elements that make this 2.5 hour film flow smoothly and without many faults. This beautiful film comes recommended for those looking for something different from the genre.