Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

R   |    |  Action, Adventure, Drama


Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Poster

In 18th-century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani are sent to the Gevaudan province at the king's behest to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.


7/10
61,670

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  • Christophe Gans in Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • Mark Dacascos in Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • Mark Dacascos at an event for Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • Monica Bellucci in Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • Mark Dacascos at an event for Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  • Vincent Cassel in Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

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22 December 2001 | Victor Field
No classic, but with food for thought, thrills AND Monica Bellucci naked, go for it.
The presence of Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin in "Midnight Run" seemed to cause many people to wildly overrate that standard action movie; similarly, the we-hate-Forrest-Gump crowd approached the quietly compelling "Cast Away" with too much prejudice to view it fairly. In "Brotherhood of the Wolf" (the English-language title of "Le Pacte des loups"), a character says that lies told in Latin can be seen as truth; the fact that this is a commercial film in French (with subtitles so you can fool yourself into feeling clever that you're watching an art movie) may explain why some are very, very enthusiastic about it. Not that the movie doesn't deserve praise (it does in a lot of ways); it's just that I wonder if they'd have been as impressed had it been the identical film shot in English and with an American cast (or with Americans other than Mark Dacascos).

Based on the French tale of a deadly creature that roamed the Gallic countryside in the 18th century and was never caught, "Le Pacte des loups" plays like a better, more coherent, more frightening version of "Sleepy Hollow," with the representative from the major city (Samuel le Bihan)and his Iroquois Indian blood brother (Dacascos) sent to investigate the gruesome goings-on, and gradually finding out there's far more than meets the eye - although unlike "Sleepy Hollow," which went overboard with the decapitations, the murders are kept to a minimum in the early going (we do see the beast attacking two of its female victims (the beast only attacks women and children) in the first half, but most of the details are kept to our imaginations... unlike later on in the movie). The movie takes its time setting the pace and mood, slipping in a few clues to the resolution - one hint: watch out for the gun - and risking losing the audience because it really is pretty methodical; but once all the main characters have been introduced, and once past the halfway point, the movie really starts to deliver.

Director/co-writer Christophe Gans leaves several narrative threads hanging, but barring a few plot holes this doesn't damage the movie's overall effect because so much stuff is woven into it; the tunnel vision of several of the characters, religious symbolism, conspiracy, a hint of incest between a crippled aristocratic hunter (Vincent Cassel) and his sister (Emilie Dequenne) that comes up in a crucial moment of the plot... provided you don't think it over too much afterwards (for starters, why does the beast not go after men?), or simply think on the movie's impressive visuals (the first fight scene and several thereafter are in slow motion, but when le Bihan launches an attack on the baddies towards the end - for reasons I won't divulge here - they come in regular speed; some of the CGI effects are a bit awkward, but the work of Jim Henson's Creature Shop is thankfully less like the Bloop in "Lost in Space" and more like their usual effective stuff, with a creature guaranteed to give you nightmares), it works just fine.

Mention should also be made of the fine score from Joseph LoDuca, no stranger to scoring uncharacteristically zesty historical stories after Hercules and Xena - his cue for our heroes going hunting and the final scene are standouts, although I could have lived without that song over the credits (sung in English, by the way); of the cast's acting, with special nods to Cassel, Dacascos, and Monica Bellucci as the prostitute who turns out to be more involved with the plot than it appears (if only American actors (and while we're at it, British ones) were as multilingual as their Continental counterparts); and of the brutal but effective fight scenes, with a particularly impressive climax. While this isn't the all-timer some say it is (that first hour IS a problem), I enjoyed it in the end; despite its reputation, French cinema has always had its accessible offerings (let's not forget it gave us "Diva," Brigitte Bardot, "La Cage aux Folles" and Luc Besson, "The Fifth Element" notwithstanding), and this is further proof.

As for Monica Bellucci naked - definitely one of the most memorable (and unlike the other ones, decidedly pleasant) moments in the movie, with Gans throwing in an amazing dissolve from Miss Bellucci's topography to that of the French mountains. For once, Jim Henson's Creature Shop doesn't contribute the most impressive bodywork to a film.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

All the primary characters, except the Native American Mani, actually existed and lived during reign of King Louis XV.


Quotes

Gregoire De Fronsac: How did it happen?
Jean-Francois de Morangias: I learned that sometimes one bullet doesn't suffice.


Goofs

When de Fronsac gets out of bed after the nightmare and walks to the window, while hearing the band, he lacks the scars on his chest. Both the bear and arrow scars.


Alternate Versions

The Canadian 3-disc DVD (released in October 2002) and the United States 2-disc Special Edition DVD (released in August 2008) features a 151 minute director's cut with the following scenes added to the middle of the film before and after Fronsac returns to Paris:

  • Right after Fronsac has constructed the fake beast for De Bauternes, he goes to the brothel, gets drunk and confesses to Sylvia that the beast caught by De Bauternes is a fake.
  • An long steadicam shot from Jean-Francois' POV as he sneaks through the brothel and into Sylvia's room, where he finds a sketch of Sylvia naked that Fronsac has drawn. He laughs because it's just what he needs to drive Marianne away from Fronsac.
  • Fronsac arrives at the De Morangias' castle to see Marianne one last time before returning to Paris. The guards tell him he is no longer welcome on orders of the Countess and that Marianne is sick. Jean-Francois turns up and tells the guards and his mother to let Fronsac in. Jean-Francois leads him into the great hall where Marianne waits. She tells Fronsac she doesn't want to see him again and tosses the naked sketch of Sylvie onto the floor. Fronsac storms out, knocking Jean-Francois to the floor on his way.
  • After the second girl is killed down in the pit there is a scene inside the Church where Sylvia kneels down next to Marianne as she prays. She tells Marianne the Fronsac truly only loves her. Sardis watches Sylvia suspiciously as she leaves.
  • A scene on the docks as Fronsac and Mani are loading supplies for the trip to Africa. Thomas D'Apacher turns up and tells Fronsac that the beast continued attacking after he and De Beauternes left. D'Apacher cannot find anyone to go on the hunt with him and he wants to try to hunt this time using Mani's methods. At first Fronsac refuses, but D'Apacher provides him with a love letter from Marianne in which she asks for the secret meeting at her nanny's house. Fronsac agrees to return.


Soundtracks

Once
(uncredited)
by
Felicia Sorensen

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Action | Adventure | Drama | Horror | Thriller

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