Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…
A monster is terrorizing the 18th century French province of Gevaudan, killing women and children, upsetting the menfolk, and putting a real drag on the local tourism industry. After three years of slaughter, and on the cusp of a national revolution, King Louis XV sends aid to the beleaguered peasants in the form of a libertine naturalist named Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel le Bihan) and his Iroquois sidekick, Mani (Marc Dacascos). The two men first appear in the rain-drenched countryside coming across a group of combative transvestites harassing an old man and his raven-haired daughter. Mani dismounts and yells “Allez cuisine!” before proceeding to kick the ruffians’ asses with lightning quick Native American karate. The delightful absurdity of that encounter sets the tone for all that follows. The duo will traverse forests, caves, palaces, churches, and whorehouses looking for the truth behind the attacks, and their search will bring them face to face with not only the Beast of Gevaudan, but with corruption, deception, love, misguided authority, and Monica Bellucci’s magnificently nude body. A delightfully curvy nude body that in one audacious shot actually transforms into the snowy hillside…
If style was semen Brotherhood of the Wolf would be the ultimate bukkake film. A strong (and disgusting) claim, I know, but the movie is an example of what the French call “tout mais l’évier decuisine” (probably not true, but could be if the French used Babel Fish), or “everything but the kitchen sink.” It’s a mash-up of horror, history, romance, social commentary, thriller, and action, and you truly never know quite what to expect with each successive scene. If you find yourself growing bored at any point with the costume drama and all the subtitles, just wait a moment and you’ll be treated to spectacular martial arts action, fleshy shenanigans in a sex-filled brothel, or a monster mauling milk maids. Not that you should really get bored… at almost three hours in length the film never feels slow, even when it should. This is partly due to the fact that director Christophe Gans (the creepy as hell but criminally underrated Silent Hill) has apparently never met a camera he couldn’t move. Almost every shot is captured in motion, be it action, framing, dialogue, etc. The true action scenes can be dizzying at times with a kinetic mix of fantastic stunt work, quick-cut editing, and sharp, slow motion leaps and falls. You most definitely will not be bored. Dumbfounded maybe…
The genre-hopping and abundance of flair work mostly to the film’s advantage as the viewer is kept on their toes and constantly surprised by the images and revelations onscreen, but it has a negative effect as well. There’s so much going on over the film’s running time that something is bound to get lost. That something will most likely be the side characters, the history, and the twisted details behind the mystery. Between the brawls and the boobs we’re treated to brief expositions on the Age of Reason, the Knights Templar, and the entwined powers of the church and king, but it’s all easy to miss or forget when the movie’s ADD kicks in again. “The truth is very complicated,” says one of the film’s powerful antagonists. “To govern you must make things simple.” The movie itself is anything (and everything) but simple, even if it is more than a little silly.
Dacascos shines in the role of Mani… his physical prowess is expected (he is after all the Chairman of Kitchen Stadium), but his charisma in the film is an unexpected surprise. Bihan does a fine job looking and acting like David Lee Roth sans personality, but he pales beside the dark skinned Hawaiian (both figuratively and literally) for the film’s first half. That may have been intentional on Gans’ part, but it makes the character seem underwhelming for far too long. The supporting cast is filled with recognizable French faces including the bewitching Bellucci, the always evil Vincent Cassel, Philippe Nahon (the head-fucking psycho from High Tension), and others.
Brotherhood of the Wolf steals from a lot of other films, many of them better films, but it does so wisely. If you’ve seen the shark attacks from Jaws, the setup from Sleepy Hollow, the naked lady from Malena, the convoluted religious conspiracies from The Name of the Rose, or any Zack Snyder action scene (slow it down, now speed it up, now slow it down) then you’ve seen most of what Gans’ monster pastiche has to offer… but it’s still one hell of a wildly entertaining piece of cinema.
Brotherhood of the Wolf Director’s Cut was recently released in the US. It includes the extended version of the film as well as multiple deleted scenes. The film’s trailer is below.
Bottom Line: Length and girth troubles aside, Brotherhood of the Wolf is unavoidably fun to watch. The fight scenes are spectacular, the creature effects from Jim Henson’s workshop are impressive, Bellucci is gorgeous, and the cinematography is beautiful. You can’t help but enjoy it with only one caveat… do not give the movie an ounce of serious thought.
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