Brotherhood of the Wolf – Le Pact des Loups (2001)

Directed by Christophe Gans

Part of me loves this movie; part of me hates it. This is why I give Brotherhood of the Wolf (Les Pact des Loups) three and a half stars out of five. As movies go, it’s a bizarre hybrid and, as such, is by turns compelling and silly – seldom at the same time.

Here’s the story: In 18th century France a well-travelled taxidermist and an Iroquois wise man skilled in martial arts seek out and do battle with a monstrous beast that is terrorizing the countryside. The “Beast” i’s also controlled by a secret rogue Roman Catholic society so the pair do battle with these guys as well.

Well, that’s a lot of ground to cover.

The movie is excellent, engaging and suspenseful, as long as we have scenes of character interaction. The relationships and the character development all work well and although those who don’t speak French may have to follow subtitles, you’re scarcely aware of it because the movie draws you in so skillfully.

But then there’s an action scene and everything goes to hell.

Monica Belluci in Brother of the Wolf.

Granted, the movie is fantastic – let’s face it, Brotherhood is a horror film.

But it’s hard to buy into the sudden Matrix-like stunt work, martial arts and editing techniques.

You keep looking for the remote because it seems as if someone has suddenly changed channels to another movie.

This is where the movie is frustrating.

In the expository scenes, it’s a brilliantly performed and shot drama.

As soon as it switches to an action sequence, though, it suddenly becomes a hodge-podge and you’re not sure what you’re watching.

As mentioned, many of the fight sequences look like the Matrix. But there are other scenes that appear to be styled after Hollywood westerns. Others still seem based on recent war movies. And yet others are fashioned after other horror films.

Scene from Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pact des Loups).

Stylistically, then, the film is all over the place and, because of this, has no style of its own when it has action sequences.

What we end up with is a movie that is fabulous in its first half where it is filled with exposition, storyline setups, and character development, but which flounders and flops everywhere in the second half as it resolves what has been set up.

It’s not that films like this are expected to be paradigms of credibility. They are not. But the problem isn’t credibility (well, except for the martial art skilled 18th Iroquois guy).

The problem is a confusion of cinematic styles.

The film feels like one kind of film at one point then feels like another a few moments later. As movies go, this one has a bipolar disorder.

So … we’re left with a film that is at once compelling and bizarrely stupid. You just can’t figure out what to make of it. But it’s certainly worth seeing because it is, in part, engaging and does have it’s wonderful moments.

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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