Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review - Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001 - Dir. Christophe Gans)

Continuing our birthday celebrations we come to the final entry in our Mark Dacascos Season, and it is one of my favourite films of all time.

The idea of mixing the genres of kung fu, horror, mystery and period french drama, whilst adding a savage stonking great wolf as a garnish may seem a tad foolish. But it works stunningly well, making for one of the most refreshingly original films I've ever seen.

Naturalist (not naturist - that would have been one genre too many. I don't think wolves play volleyball anyway) Gregoire de Fronsac, played by Samuel Le Bihan is sent by the King to the small french province of Gevaudan, along with his native American sidekick Mani (Mark Dacascos). Numerous deaths have been occurring and they have been attributed to a rather large wolf. Fronsac and Mani investigate this general unpleasantness. And hit people a lot. So what we basically have is a berzerk version of Hound of the Baskervilles (not a bad thing).

Gans certainly loves his slow motion and Dacascos has never looked cooler. Forget his Straight-to-DVD actioners. This is what he is truly capable of. There are so many well choreographed fights. His assailants, in true kung fu fashion, take their turn, coming at Mani with fists and various weapons, but he just sorts them. No messing. The sound effects are excessively loud and crunchy, further adding to the stylised nature of the fights. Bihan also gets to do a fair bit of scrapping and is not too shabby in the 'hitting people hard' departpartment.

There is love interest in the form of the gorgeous Émilie Dequenne (The Pack) and Monica Bellucci (Irreversible), just enough to add yet another dimension to the film. Both female leads are great but Dequenne is so great she should get her own season. Now, there's a thought... 

You also get Vincent Cassel as a really creepy villain. He's always good value for money and doesn't let the side down here. Supposedly, he put in a lot of training for his fight sequence and it shows.

Let's get the one negative out of the way. Surprise, surprise, it's the CGI. The wolf looks ropey and a bit too light and lacking in contrast compared to the backgrounds for my liking. Saying that, the close-ups (by Henson) using a practical wolf are premium quality (again, surprise, surprise).

For a film to be so full of disparate elements and still be coherent and top fun is a testament to Gans' skill as a director. (It's a shame Onimusha fell through. That would have been a treat.) He brings out the best in Mark Dacascos (see Crying Freeman) and it would be great to see them work together again. So do the dodgy effects knock the rating down at all? For sheer audacity, I'll let it off.

(Please note: It's well worth getting the Blu-ray because with the DVD you are limited to a plain stereo soundtrack if you opt for the french language version, the 5.1 sound is only available on the useless dubbed version. The Blu-ray has got the proper full surround experience. Way better. And not smelly.)

If you like this you could also try:
Crying Freeman, Drive, The Pack, the 2002 BBC version of Hound of the Baskervilles.


  1. Sounds good - looking forward to viewing it on Blu-ray in the next couple of weeks.

  2. On face value I wouldn't go for this dvd down at my local, but you make it sound so fun and entertaining, and have convinced me to check the trailer, and maybe give it a watch

    1. If you like the look of the trailer you will probably like the film. Hopefully.

  3. I concur! Absolutely brilliant and well worth a watch. I didn't even mind the ropey wolf the rest is of such quality.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. It's always good to have a bit of Mark Dacascos.


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