Posted: 01/10/2002

 

Brotherhood of the Wolf [Le Pact de Loups]

(2001)

by Del Harvey



Oh, brother…what a turkey!


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There is a magician’s trick, rarely performed, apparently, which calls for the magician to lie down inside a paper coffin that is ringed by dynamite. According to theory, if the body is in the exact center of this space, the surrounding explosions will cancel each other out. Undoubtedly a most impressive trick; but who is foolhardy enough to try it?

The same could be said of Le Pact de Loups, or Brotherhood of the Wolf, a French import from director Christophe Gans. The French have a long history as being true cineastes, as well as laying claim to many classic filmmakers. Which is why I am so stunned by this French version of the “big Hollywood blockbuster.” Where does one begin with a film that borrows from so many genres and makes so many references to well-known, big budget American films. Yet comes from the country that turns up its nose at films that are all style and no substance?

To begin with, do not be fooled by the trailer for Brotherhood of the Wolf, as I was. Lay me down in dynamite if I should be fooled by such conceits again. I watched the images flashed on the screen and thought, “A French horror film. How bad can it be?” Well, it’s no horror film. And that’s the first of its crimes. The others? Let me just list the two most obvious scenes I can recall which are clear rip-offs from popular, big budget American films: The opening scene in Jaws where the woman is thrashed about in the water by a huge, unseen force; and Carrie-Anne Moss’ slo-mo fight scene in The Matrix.

As if that weren’t enough, it appears the director or the producers or someone with their hand on the checkbook decided that the basic story wasn’t enough. No, they had to have it all: lavish photography, swashbuckling, horror story, dream sequences, courtly intrigue, marching armies, the thrill of the hunt, lurid sex scenes in a bordello, voodoo, religious sects and devil worship, a love story, a revenge story, and more which I just cannot recall at this moment.

The lead character, Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) looks like David Lee Roth and is so California blonde he seems impossible as a Frenchman. His blood brother, Mani (Mark Dacascos), is supposed to be a Mohawk Indian, but looks asian (Dacascos is in fact Hawaiian). Oh, and he knows martial arts (?!?!). Marianne (Emilie Dequenne) seems to be about 16 and half the hero’s age, at that. But, hey, this is the 18th Century, so anything goes, right? The hooker who’s a spy for the King, Sylvia (Monica Belluci) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women alive today—as we are shown in several lurid shots in the bordello. But that’s about all the “acting” part she’s given. And Vincent Cassel, as Jean-Francois, is simply wasted. One of France’s most popular actors at the moment, he is a weak villain in this film.

What is there worth seeing in the film? The fight scenes and the cinematography. That’s it. And at 142 minutes, that does not qualify as “worth watching.” My suggestion: spend less time and have more fun—go see Snow Dogs.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago, is a devout Bears fan and teaches screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.



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