Plot: What’s it about?
Crossing film genres is nothing new to the film industry. In fact, many projects are green-lighted or scripts sold on pitches like, “Imagine this: The Matrix meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Which very well could have been the pitch for Brotherhood of the Wolf, but besides that, who would have thought that the French would make such a film and, as it turns out, know what they were doing? But they did, and the result is a film that has the cinematography, editing, and overall visual style of its foreign counterparts filtered through the artistic lens of its French origins. Though itÆs an American- or Asian-like action film, Brotherhood is based on a true tale from French lore, so director Christophe Gans and his crew had the natural right to make it. In late eighteenth century France, sixty women and children were mysteriously mutilated and killed, and the King ordered the capture and death of the “Beast” suspected to be the killer. The film romanticizes the idea, of course, by including Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), his Iroqouis aide Mani (Mark Dacascos), and a whole mix of evil occult members, political consipiracies, stunning martial arts, bordellos, and a monster thirsty for innocent blood. While Fronsac and Mani hunt the Beast, they discover dark secrets and get drawn into a supernatural world but still manage to kick a lot of butt along the way.
Sounds like a true Hollywood adventure, doesnÆt it? Le Pact des loups is all French, though, and itÆs subtitled in America itÆs subtitled in English. Like with any subtitled film, this is a bit of an unfortunate distraction from the action on screen, and itÆs especially a shame with this film because of its fast-paced action and beautiful cinematography. The gritty, rich images have nearly the same look as the awesome photography of The Fellowship of the Ring. Likewise, the tempo of the editing and film speed alteration during fight scenes is perfectly done and quite impressive — but they themselves are overshadowed by the booming sound effects that come with every fight and growl of the Beast. The technical aspects certainly make the movie entertaining, and itÆs made even more so by the liberties director Gans takes with other film styles. The opening of the film even mirrors Steven SpielbergÆs Jaws as a woman violently writhes under the attack of an unseen predator, and the fighting scenes are just as fantastic as those from The Matrix and Crouhcing Tiger. The period nature of the film is also reminiscent of something like The Last of the Mohicans. And as surprising as it may sound, this monster movie/martial arts/period epic combination truly works. ItÆs what makes Brotherhood a worthwhile film.
It works so well that director Christophe Gans makes us wonder if an American crew would have made the film as entertaining. He borrows techniques from famous American and Asian films but knows exactly how to use them and how to make it seem more like an homage than piracy. Such care with filmmaking is seldom taken with larger productions anymore, and Brotherhood of the Wolf, though a low-profile release, is just as good as many popular American films of the same type. Thematically, the film may relate to Americans more than is apparent. The title refers to a secret society revealed late in the film, whose role is to protect the interests of the Catholic Church in rural France. With their hooded dress and secretive meetings, they bear more than a passingresemblance to the Ku Klux Klan, who were involved in “protecting the interests” of whites in the American South after the Civil War through similarly horrific means. Although for the most part director Gans simply portrays them as villainous characters, the parallels (likely unintentional) provide an interesting light on the historically based subplots.
Video: How does it look?
Brotherhood of the Wolf is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Being a very dark movie this presentation is rock solid. During some of the scenes, there tends to be a bit of a breakup in the sky (for a look of how dark the movie is, just take a look at the cover art); but aside from that; it’s essentially smooth-sailing. The DVD is new as is the movie, so all of the things we’ve come to expect from Universal and their day and date releases remain true here as well. Bottom line, it’s a good transfer, not reference-quality, but then again…we weren’t expecting it.
Audio: How does it sound?
Almost as impressive as the video is the audio, which offers a superb atmosphere and one of the better tracks I’ve heard of late. I was blown away by the creative use of the channels, from directional effects to excellent pans to all other manner of usage, this is one awesome track. The subwoofer even gets to chime in on many, many occasions and I think this mix could easily be used to showcase a home theater, as it is that damn good. There’s never a problem with dialogue however, which remains clean and easy to understand, even in the most powerful audio sequences.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Some production notes and cast bios are all you’ll find here!