Brotherhood of the Wolf
Starring:
Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel
Directed By:
Christophe Gans
Grade
A-

Brotherhood of the Wolf is an odd film to place in the scheme of genres. This French import has all the features of a historical political timepiece, martial arts action flick, and sci-fi/occult horror feature. Each of these separate genres seem to be blended together to make an interesting film that draws you into the story as it manages to gain more and more intrigue.

The story begins as Gregoire de Fronsac, taxidermist for King Louis XV, and his "blood brother" Mani, a Native American he brought back with him from the Americas, are sent to the province of Gevaudan to investigate a series of brutal murders. Over the past two years, a beast has been killing locals. Fronsac's orders are for him to discover more about the murderous beast, which is rumored to be many things, even a large wolf. During his stay, Fronsac meets the acquaintance of Mariane De Morangias, who he becomes romantically inclined with, and her brother, Jean-Francois, who lost an arm in Africa during a hunt.

The story, at first, seems to unfold with a regular manner to it. You're given a good idea of the main players and even some time with some of the smaller players. The story throws a few odd sequences here and there, but once you think that things are going to work out a certain way, the story makes a shift that I found really nice. Instead of just a hunt for a "mystical" beast with what would seem to be a reasonably sound ending, you're given a grand shift that tears the main characters into a far different tale of secret societies and plots against the King.

The film is shot with an interesting manner that really plays up the action and mystical themes of the story. A lot of the scenes are filmed with a moving camera that goes along with the pace of the story. Also, there are a number of shots run with varying speeds. A scene may start at regular speed, only to slow down for a pause to emphasize a certain moment, and then go back to full speed, giving the impact more emphasis. While this technique is used often, it's never done too often as to make it feel gimmicky. Throw in a lot of wonderfully imaged scenes and some brilliant color and lighting work and you have a nice film that's great to watch.

People who find distaste in English dub can always switch over to the French track, but I would have to commend Brotherhood for presenting one of the better English Dubs I've heard in some time. The on-screen performances are accented well with the dubbed voices and it helps carry the interesting story well without fault of weak translation or poor timing. The musical score, rather than taking a more plain and traditional role, shows a great deal of variety and really works wonders with the way the movie is filmed. No single piece is greater than the rest, but the score as a whole carries a great deal of the ambiance.

Brotherhood features a number of well orchestrated fight sequences to go along with the story. Mark Dacascos exhibits some fine skills in his fighting scenes. Throw in some nice costuming and set design to seal the timepiece aspect of the movie and you have a great film that works well.

While the bulk of the movie is finely done, I did find a few things I wish had been done differently. While the beast remains hidden throughout the first part of the film, once he's shown off, he looses a bit of the "magic" about it, making it less of a mystery and more of just something that needs to be hunted. Also, the ending, while drawn out, seems to be a little too convenient. The events leading up to the conclusion of the film are fairly traumatic and once the ending is delivered, it seems to be a fairly simple wrap up compared to everything that came before.

Brotherhood of the Wolf is an excellent action film that most should try and check out. If you're a purist and don't like your genre's merged as they have been here, you'll want to skip this piece.

- - Vane

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