There is a beast running about rural 18th Century France and it is eating the peasants, something about which the peasants are not too terribly pleased. So, hearing the cries of his subjects, the King sends Inspector Clouseau and his faithful side-kick Cato. No, wait, that’s not right. The French King sends his most fearsome Naturalist. Naturalist? Yeah! Anyway, the King’s Naturist, Mr. Grégoire de Fronsac, heads out to the hinterland with his faithful Mohawk side-kick Mani to investigate the mystery.
Now, let’s say there was a big wolf-like beast eating all the kids in my neighborhood. And let’s say that the King sent a marine biologist to my neighborhood to investigate. I would think, “That’s a pretty weak effort, King, couldn’t you at least send a mall cop or something?” If I was the Mayor, Duc, Dark Overlord or whatever of Gevaudan and all my peasants were getting chewed up, I’d be a bit irked at getting Fronsac. Au contraire, here it seems the local nobles seem pretty happy about the King’s choice, even though Fronsac seems to be getting nowhere fast and the peasants keep getting chewed on.
Fronsac spends most of his time sniffing around the local Duke’s daughter and sketching pretty pictures at the local brothel. All play and no work makes Jacques a dull boy, so Fronsac and Cato . . .er . . . Mani, go out and about the countryside looking for clues. We tag along with our heroes and get introduced to the local color and through them learn a lesson in Native American wisdom and cultural tolerance and not to litter.
Fronsac and Mani figure out that whatever is doing the killing is a beast, not a man. I know. You’re thinking, “Yeah, it’s a werewolf.” They also learn that the beast that is doing all this killing is big. I know. You probably thinking, “Yeah. Werewolf, remember?” And though it is not a wolf, it kind of looks like one. I know. You probably thinking, “Yeah, It looks like one because it’s a werewolf!” Ha-ha! Yeah! A werewolf.
I could go on with the plot, but that would spoil the surprise. So I’ll talk about what I like and didn’t like about the movie. I like that the killings in the movie are horrific without being gratuitously violent and graphic. Explicit and drawn out violence isn’t scary. It’s nauseating. The violence in this film is just horrible enough to make you squirm a bit in your chair, leaving the really horrible stuff to your imagination. I like that there is full frontal nudity. I like the historical setting. The acting and production values were good. The movie clipped along at a good pace. The monster, and you do get to see it, is CGI. I hate that. It’s not even very good CGI, but even so, it’s still a big cut above most of the Sci-Fi channel’s “originals.”
I suppose the thing that bothers me most is that this really isn’t werewolf movie. It’s a strange historical action-adventure martial arts movie. There is some mystery-suspense thrown in. Taken on it’s own, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a fairly entertaining movie. The thing is, I was expecting werewolves and there weren’t any. That is not to say that the movie ends something like an episode of Scoobie Doo in that there is no beast and there are no supernatural activities. There is a monster. There are some creepy things going down in the French countryside, just not werewolves.
Some have lambasted it as a sellout movie, grumbling that Brotherhood of the Wolf is just like sort of movies they make here in America. Just watching it, you can tell that it isn’t an American movie. Aside from the fact that people are speaking French, there is full frontal nudity which takes the attitude of, “Mais oui, there’s full frontal, but it’s not a big deal. Now leave us to our revelry and smoking and food with heavy cream sauces.”
What truly gives it away as a French film? There is no long chase scene. There are no gratuitous explosions. If this were an American made movie, the monster would chase Fronsac and Mani through the back roads of France. Fronsac and Mani would be sharing a motorcycle, because this isn’t just about two guys, this is about two guys from different worlds who combine into a duo of bad-assery against adversity. The monster would be driving a big ass truck with fangs of its own. Blood would come shooting from the tires whenever he peeled out, at the end the truck would later explode. It might even explode twice. There was none of that. Merci.
Samuel Le Bihan