Written by: Ron Cotton on October 18th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: France, January 31st, 2001
Director: Christophe Gans
Cast: Samuel Le Bihan,Vincent Cassel, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Renier, Mark Dacascos
DVD released: November 5th, 2002
Approximate running time: 152 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS French, Dolby Digital French, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
DVD Release: TVA Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
The Brotherhood of the Wolf is an ambitious conglomeration of several genres into one: Action, Humor, Drama, Horror, and even Martial Arts. Le pacte des loups or The Brotherhood of the Wolf is an adventure taking dramatic license on the mysterious tale of the Beast of Gevaudan. For three years time, the large beast violently attacked over 200 people by attempting to crush or remove the heads of its victims. The atmosphere created in The Brotherhood of the Wolf is near perfection, with the color scheme reminiscent of the 18th Century look that Kubrick pioneered in Barry Lyndon with a touch of the enhanced darks found in Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. This film’s scope is grand, covering much ground in very little time. Admittedly, some elements in this film are quite predictable at face value, while alternatively the characters modus operandi is completely erratic. This is the proverbial key that unlocks the doors other scripts wouldn’t dare venture. This method of storytelling felt refreshing, while others might feel Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans device to be a grand farce.
A difficult concept to swallow is the idea that Native Americans understand the bare-handed fighting technique of Martial Arts, which is at times quite laughable. The English dub is adequate, although Mani’s voice (which was remarkably similar to Tonto from the Lone Ranger television series) was extremely jarring. At times, Character’s voices sounded spatially incorrect with background sounds muted heavily. One cinematic transition in the film that bears mentioning is of the curved form of a bare naked white female form transforming into the rolling white frosted hills of the countryside. The seamlessness of this effect captured my attention.
The action scenes in The Brotherhood of the Wolf is peppered throughout this film in small doses. Mark Dacascos performance is definitely unforgettable and over the top as the union of great editing, directing, cinematography, and choreography shines in this department. Wicked blades, flying kicks, blood, and an uncompromising beast feels both unfamiliar and refreshing in French cinema.
Presented in 2.35:1, TVA Films in association with Canal has created a wonderful transfer on this dual layer disc. This extended directors cut release appears to be primarily for Canadian audiences, as the commentary tracks are French only. Audio offers French 5.1 and DTS while English Dub only receives 5.1 Dolby Digital. This three disc set comes with an abundance of extras that will keep you busy for hours. Seamless Branching allowing both theatrical and directors cut would have been a great option on this release.
In my estimation, The Brotherhood of the Wolf is effectively a riveting film, able to interlace different aspects of numerous genres without overwhelming one’s pallet. This movie is topical and should be enjoyed at face value. Those with a weak constitution will find autopsy scenes to be graphic, but doesn’t push the envelope with excessive gore. Overall it’s not surprising that The Brotherhood of the Wolf was a humongous French success grossing over $70 Million Dollars worldwide. This success in turn afforded Universal to allow a US limited theatrical release. With TRA Films fully loaded three disc set, this release is recommended.