Before making the lackluster adaptation of the Silent Hill
videogame, director Christophe Gans made a much better, yet widely overlooked,
film in the form of Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Taking place in 18th century France, Brotherhood
tells the story of the Gregoire de Fronsac, a man sent to investigate a series
of mysterious murders which have been running rampant in a sleepy town that may
or may not be attacks brought on by a werewolf.
That’s all I will say about the plot because half of the (admittedly frustrating)
fun comes from watching the story veer off in different directions for the next
I remember seeing the film back in 2001 with little advertisement
to hint at what I was about to see. It
was because of the accolades it received at the Toronto International Film Festival
that made me want to see the film. And
as soon as the opening credits rolled, I was hooked.
Any good film should begin with something that grabs your
attention, or else why should you be sitting there for a couple of hours? Something has to intrigue you. In the case of Brotherhood of the Wolf,
opening the film with a sensationalized werewolf attack was a stroke of
genius. It uses the ‘Ramp up, slow down’
action technique we see often nowadays, but it never comes off as being intrusive
or gimmicky. As well, aside from it
being an aesthetic touch, it gives the proceedings a unique and unmistakable
sense of intensity and brutality.
The only glaring fault in the film (and this may be
something that makes or breaks the film for some) is the fact that it gets
incredibly outlandish by the third act.
The film does a wonderful job at bringing this interesting and
supposedly factual story to the screen, with larger than life characters and a
touch of the supernatural. But you just
can’t help but suspect the filmmakers of being afraid to make an outright genre
film, so they slyly turn the tables on you near the end. Personally, it didn’t bother me too
much. But for a number of my friends, it
was the straw that broke the camel’s back; which is a shame, because in the
last ten minutes, the film regains the storytelling vigor that made it
interesting in the first place.
The cast is an eclectic one at best. Samuel Le Bihan (to me, an unfamiliar French
actor) really impressed in the lead role as Gregoire. He’s got classic movie star charm and can
believably crack a few skulls when he has to.
Vincent Cassel, most familiar to mainstream audiences for his crackling
turn as Kirill in Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, plays the most intriguing of
all suspects here. Monica Bellucci plays
a woman who works in a brothel, but who also has ties with the occult. The most interesting cast member, however, is
Mark Dacascos. That’s right. One half of the Double Dragon team. The Chairman of Iron Chef: America. Here, he puts his martial arts skills to good
use as Gregoire’s Native American companion, Mani. The filmmakers wisely give Dacascos most of
the show stopping moments, allowing his avant garde style to shine. Believe
me, when he’s not on screen, you’ll notice it; he’s surprisingly that good.
As I said before, the film has a tendency to veer off in different
directions at any given moment. Brotherhood
of the Wolf can be seen as a martial arts film, a historical drama, a supernatural
suspense and a horror film, sometimes all at once. While the outcome of the story (and the true
story behind the werewolf attacks, for that matter) isn’t as strong as it
should have been, Brotherhood of the Wolf presents a fun ride; one that would
have been even better, if only it embraced its outrageousness.