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Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)


Brutal. Ugly. Predictable. Boring. Stereotypical. Comical. Violent. Lethargic. Seven words to describe the hellish cinema experience of The Brotherhood of the Wolf. Alas, I forgot two more epitaphs: disappointing and plagiaristic.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf has all of the makings of a great French epic. Dashing leading men including Vincent Cassel (The Crimson Rivers), voluptuous women such as Emilie Dequenne and Monica Bellucci, a promising storyline packed full of complex, daunting elements of suspense and mystery, and impressive production values clearly evident in costuming and set design. The problem is that this film is about as French in style and execution as McDonald’s French fries.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf takes a Merchant-Ivory production and viciously molests it with the now-popular Japanese-style cinematography. The film suffers from an overload of gruesome scenes of violence, audibly enhanced in brutal surround sound fashion. A ridiculous CG creature is given way too much screen time; he better resembles one of Godzilla’s archenemies born of nuclear mutations. The characters never develop beyond their two-dimensional Shrinky-Dink limitations, seldom displaying any emotional depth or virtue.

Generically narrated by an elder aristocratic man reminiscing about his past, the film follows the true story of an infamous wolf-beast — the Beast of the Gevaudan — which laid waste to 18th century France and its numerous women and children — eluding capture all the while. With the Gevaudanian province in turmoil from the beast’s continual attacks, the King sends an envoy — a libertine/scientist named Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Mohawk counterpart Mani (Mark Dascascos) — to investigate and possibly rid the lands of the mysterious beast.

Predictably, Grégoire the Pretty falls in puppy love with a local blueblood and ends up in a conspiracy worse than Watergate, something concerning the Royal Court and a Mardi Gras version of a lupus. Mani, a Mohawk Who Kicks Major Booty in Time-Lapse Cinematography, spends the movie spiritually communing with nature and beating up a bunch of locals who look like rejects from a Mad Max sequel. I could go on, but there are plenty of American movies that have ruined this story already, so why bother?

Le Bihan and Dascascos have great chemistry together as the mysterious envoy and the mystical savage, but the obviousness of both of their characters ultimately drags them down and the movie with it. The mind-numbing pace of the film (142 minutes long) doesn’t help, despite the (inappropriate) Bruce Lee-style action scenes. Combining a love story with major butt-kicking worked in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but the gore is totally wrong here. And forget taking a date to this one: She’ll surely be thrilled when Vincent Cassel’s character rapes his own sister. Direction by Christophe Gans is over the top and not really worth mentioning further. The script is insulting in its shoddiness, provoking absurdist laughter from the audience during the most gruesome and ‘suspenseful’ points of the film. Mr. Rogers is more frightening.

Aka Le Pacte des loups.

Brotherhood didn’t make any sense in theaters, and it doesn’t make any sense on DVD either. Best feature: your choice of dubbing or subtitling (though it won’t make much difference either way). Forty minutes of deleted/extended scenes with commentary from Gans prove just how many fight scenes were filmed (a lot).