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Brotherhood of the Wolf (Christophe Gans) 2002 

A supremely silly, blood soaked, action flick set in 18th century France, Christophe Gansí Brotherhood of the Wolf manages to stir up interest until it becomes apparent that the multitude of excesses that the film trots out will end up as overkill. Things begin in this variation of the Beowulf myth as what feels like a do-over of John McTeirnanís The Thirteenth Warrior as our heroes chase a giant wolf thatís eating villagers (think Princess Mononoke), but itís not long before weíre treated to some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style fight scenes (edited as frantically as anything in Moulin Rogue!). The film definitely feels like a pastiche of many films that have come before, but its elements donít come together as well as youíd hope.  

Occasionally, the film feels quite stylish, but more often the overdirection makes things feel garish. If thereís such a thing as too much cinematography, this film is guilty. Every image in the film is made to look beautiful and colorful whether itís the sunset receding into the skyline or a victim of the beast as sheís getting her brains bashed against a rock. As a result, things become a bit headache inducing, and there are few scenes that have much lasting visual impact since everything is gorgeous. The overwrought frenzyís always on, even when thereís nothing much happening on screen. 

            The visuals arenít the filmís only excess, however. Certainly the cartoonish and loud sound effects make us understand explicitly where every stick thwacks every bad guy. The editing choices donít feel that sound either. Although itís impressive the first time Gans slows down or stops the film speed to extend a moment, it becomes wearying by the end of the filmís far too long two and a half hour running time. Some of the fades are also silly, especially one that creates a visual match between a prostituteís breasts and some rolling hills.  

This is indeed a genre flick, and as such its attempts to infuse some originality into the proceedings are appreciated. Certainly, few swashbuckling films take advantage of this setting, and even if that setting results in anachronisms such as a kickboxing Indian, those sins are easily forgiven (the mysticism of the Indian versus the evils of the white man, less so). The exaggerated and grotesque nature of the violence is certainly visceral and would be far more enjoyable if we were not subjected to so much of it. The filmís last act is hopeless, however, so just as the plot begins to really frustrate us the other excesses of the film are at their most annoying. Still, as much as the cameraís twists and spins tart the film up, the fight scenes show us that, despite the filmís foreign language, butt-kicking is universal. 



Jeremy Heilman