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In 1765 something was stalking the mountains of south-western France. A
'beast' that pounced on humans and animals with terrible ferocity. Indeed
they beast became so notorious that the King of France dispatched envoys
find out what was happening and to kill the creature. By the end, the
of Gevaudan had killed over 100 people, to this day, no one is entirely
what it was, wolf? hyena? or something supernatural? Whatever it was,
shepherds had the same life-expectancy as the red-suited guys in 'Star
Trek'. The Beast is a popular myth in France, albeit one rooted firmly in
reality; somewhat surprisingly it is little known to the outside world,
perhaps incredibly it has never been made into a movie. Until now, and
Categorising 'Le Pacte des Loups' would be tricky, but I'll try. Its a period costume horror martial-arts werewolf movie and surprisingly all those pieces work together provided you don't concentrate too hard. Why no one has previously made a period costume horror martial-arts werewolf movie before is a mystery, but I expect plenty of imitations in the future.
Taking the Beast as its starting point the movie quickly diverges from historical fact and steps up the pace. We are introduced to the two heroes, Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel le Bihan) and Mani (Mark Dacascos) in the midst of a torrential storm that culminates in the first of many magnificently staged fights. De Fronsac has been dispatched by the King to find the Beast. De Fronsac represents the new rational world of the Enlightenment which is being forced to confront the backward, superstitious France outside of the capital. Mani, an Iroquois shaman and hunter befriended by de Fronsac whilst adventuring in the Americas brings another type of wisdom entirely. At the time of the movie America was a dark and mysterious place, home to all of the fears of Europeans. Of course it was shortly to become the home of the very republicanism that would sweep across France and remake the Old World in a new image.
'Le Pacte des Loups' wears its republican colours on its sleeve and uses the conflict between rationalism and the stereotypical backward villagers to drive home the point. This is good old-fashioned horror movie territory and the source of much of the plot. Guvaudan is the sort of village that would give the inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow the creeps. If it were in England, Christopher Lee would be the lord of the manor and Peter Cushing the priest.
'Le Pacte des Loups' has one of the strongest French language casts possible, a mix of veterans and some up and coming talent. Here it is dominated by the priest Sardis (Jean-François Stévenin) and the saturnine Jean Francois (Vincent Cassel), a crippled hunter and explorer who rapidly becomes more dangerous than the Beast itself. Both are scornful of the changes coming from Paris and seek to shield their world from the future. The remainder of the population are either stupid, indolent, superstitious or just evil, holding back the new rational world of the big cities. The Beast is very much an extension of their way, as much as it is a physical monster, the Beast is a projection of all the villagers hatreds and bigotry.
A strong female role is unusual in movies, but two? And such different characters. There is the strikingly elegant and almost hypnotic courtesan Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), playing her role of seductress with frigid professionalism. In a world where women had little more than their wits to protect them, she is the most dangerous of all and far more than she first appears. For most of the movie you are unsure if she is going to help or hinder the heroes, she is always mysterious and captivating.
In complete contrast there is the innocent, fragile, and astonishingly beautiful, Madeiline (Emilie Dequenne), younger sister to the protective Jean Francois. Surrounded by evil, prejudice and superstition on all sides she is clearly the romantic heroine, but is also intended to represent the French Republic; the very symbol of which gives her name. De Fronsac falls hopelessly in love with this witty and charming woman, but in doing so he risks further conflict with Jean Francois.
The two leads are fantastic and share a chemistry reminiscent of the relationship between Butch and Sundance. Le Fronsac is wise when needed, with a sensational put down for those who think that Mani is less than human. Mani is a man of few words but utterly dominates the screen when present. Needless to say, they are both fantastic fighters.
Horror movies live or die by the creature and fortunately this movie delivers. Wisely there is never a chance to get a good look at the animal - it is enough to know that it is big and nasty, the viewer's mind will fill in the details. The creature is also used surprisingly sparingly. When the viewer might expect it to pounce it doesn't, a few minutes later it appears out of nowhere - wonderful, shocking stuff reminiscent of 'Alien'.
Whilst the design of the animal from the Creature Workshop is perfect, some of the CGI work is a little below the standards we have come to expect - a couple of the daylight shots are well-below par, but the nighttime work is outstanding. Indeed one shot where the creature stalks out of the fog behind the hero has to be amongst the most effective CGI work in film.
Cinematically this is some of the best work of late; it bears many resemblences to Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator' - luscious slow character-forming scenes mixed in with frantic camera work for the action scenes. Again, this strange hybrid style works exceptionally well, although perhaps it can get a little too frantic. Just about every camera and digital trick is used at least once, some to excellent effect (one flashback scene is particularly striking, using a strongly solarised effect to give it an otherworldly texture).
One of the designers was previously involved with Merchant Ivory productions and the luxurious interior scenes have every bit as much detail as any period piece, (and a special word for the costumes that use some of the most sumptuous fabrics possible). A good deal of the film is lit by candle or fire light, filling the screen with warm oranges and flesh tones (and the movie *never* misses a chance to show lots of flesh).
In contrast the exterior shots are frequently chill blues and washed out hues, making the French countryside look like a hostile world that could conceal all forms of dark secrets. The countryside itself is magnificently filmed and quite different to the stereotypical French landscapes.
Tragically all this splendour is playing to minuscule audiences, I saw it with just five other people whilst the queues for 'American Pie 2' stretched across the auditorium. Do yourself a favour and try a foreign language movie. For those people who think French cinema involves two middle aged peasants smoking Gauloises whilst arguing about the finer points of philosophy this film will come as a revelation.
At 140 minutes perhaps the movie runs a little too long and there are one too many plot twists (there is one near the end that is VERY difficult to accept, but just wince and accept it), but it doesn't outstay its welcome.
For the English-speaking market the film has been subtitled. Sadly they seem to be quite workmanlike translations and some of the wittier dialogue isn't translated, a shame because the script (even to this very poor French speaker) sparkles. A number of misspellings and grammatical errors in the subtitles should have been caught earlier, but for once you can actually read the subtitles.
This isn't great art, it doesn't redefine the genre and it doesn't preach. Horror by is very nature is irrational, there is nothing to learn from horror (apart from don't split up a group and never go down to the basement to check why the lights went out). This movie delivers over two hours of solid entertainment, you'll probably come out with a silly grin on your face - and what more do you want?
Finally, a word of praise for the most imaginative dissolve between two shots I have ever seen - a woman's breast fading into a mountain. No doubt the women of the World are eager to find out just what Christophe Gans can do with the Eiffel Tower.
In short, I have to give 'Le Pacte des Loups' two paws up.
Candle-lit interior cinematography, lush misty landscapes, strong
characters, exquisite costumes, an authentic boudoir recreation of 18th
century French society, a new kind of savage 'monster' and some of the
finest stylized fight scenes ever laid down in a 'genre' film, place
"Brotherhood of the Wolf" among the classiest horror adventure films of
Great moments include the culminating rage of Samuel Le Bihan's gentlemanly character 'Fronsac' who explodes into a Conan-like fury as he meets out 'justice' to those that wronged his Iroquois-Mohawk 'blood brother' played by Marc Dacascos, Vincent Cassel suitably creepy as the decadent 'Morangias', sensuous Monica Belluci as the dangerous and vicious 'Sylvia', interesting historical plot-points, and a bond of friendship between an unlikely pair of frontier adventurers, make director Christopher Gans "Brotherhood of the Wolf" an original masterpiece of 'genre' film-making...
From what I saw in the previews this looked like an interesting movie, then
I heard from some friends that it was pretty good, so some buddies of mine
and myself went and saw it. I have to say that I LOVED this movie. I knew
it was going to be subtitled, and I knew it was a French movie, but other
than what I saw in the trailers, I didn't have a clue what to
I must say that the trailers were PERFECT, cause they showed just enough to get you interested, but not enough to ruin the cool parts in the movie.
I was truly shocked at how good the "Beast" looked, I was really fearing that it would barely be shown and when it was it would look bad, but I thought it looked great! It was no T-Rex in "Jurassic Park", but nonetheless, it looked believable and quite real at times.
Then there's the fight scenes. These fights were incredible. My hat is off to Mark Dacascos, I saw him in two of his earlier films; "Double Dragon" and "Only The Strong" and was really impressed with his fighting in both of those films. As far as fighting goes though, I think this film takes the cake. Truly impressive, if you ask me.
His buddy in the film, Samuel Le Bihan, was a great fighter too. Mark seems much more of a martial arts fighter though, whereas Samuel is more of a weapon wielder, but equally impressive.
Like most movies there were a few scenes that I could have done without, but overall, I was really happy with the film. It was worth my $9.
Another thing I wanted to mention is the wardrobe. Normally I'm not one to really pay attention to the wardrobe, but it really stuck out in this film for some reason. The costumes were great in this film, I really liked the outfits that the two main characters were wearing in the beginning of the film when they're standing in the rain (the costumes shown on the poster). They just looked so cool.
If I had to complain about something in the movie, I'd say that the director went a little overboard with the slow-motion. And more specifically, the slow-motion-to-full-motion shots. There were certain times in the film where I KNEW the directer was going to slow the shot down and "surprise, surprise", I was right. But it didn't bug me enough to get me upset, just something that struck me as odd.
Well, I hope you like(d) the movie as much as I did and thanks for reading my review.
When it is cold and wet and foreboding outside, leaving one to fend for
a good escape into fantasy and a time gone by, then this movie
DELIVERS. Say whatever you want about miniscule "holes" in the story,
or the tedium applied to the cinematography or the excessive use of
slow camera effects in the fight sequences, THIS IS ENTERTAINMENT.
This movie carries the viewer into a whole new world- not like the one inhabited by Hobbits and Elves, and other creatures that obviously DO NOT exist- but rather a world of old France where the people are stranger than fiction and the times are changing. Fables meet their demise AND their verification in this film.
It's not a movie I would call a "favorite", but it IS a movie that I consider a "guilty pleasure" on a day that affords me three hours to slip out of my existence and follow a satisfying and well-presented fantasy. Every millimeter of every frame is a work of art, and that alone is worth getting lost in.
I am very pleased to see French cinema depart from the "if you don't
understand my movie, then you are not an intellectual" approach to film
making. More often then not, French films have been explorations of
relationships or psychological dramas. And they have generally been very
difficult to sit through. Take "Place Vendome" for instance. It won all
sorts of awards at Cannes, but is basically a very boring, unwatchable
arthouse movie. This film is nothing like that. It is exceptionally
well-made, it is exciting, horrifying, and will keep you glued to your
I have rarely been so impressed with a film. The plot is a little
far-fetched, but it is based on a folkloric creature that stalked people in
the 18th century in southern France. Therefore, if the movie gets a little
bit super-natural, than I can accept it. After all, the "real" wolf was
supposed to have killed over 100 people during it's reign of terror 200
years ago, and there must have been something odd about a wolf capable of
Christophe Gans is the same person who directed "Crying Freeman", still one of the best action movies of all time (in my humble opinion). Mark Dacascos of "Crying Freeman" is equally in "Le Pacte des Loups", playing an Iroquois warrior, a traveling companion to the French protagonist. Where an Iroquois learned to fight like that, I will never know, but then again, I wasn't around during the French-Indian wars to verify how they fought:) Suffice it to say that the action sequences are terrific, the beast is terrifying, and the story is engrossing. This movie cannot be simply branded a horror film, nor an action film. It is a fantastic escape into pre-French Revolution France with a very large wolf thrown in. I loved it when I saw it in France in French. I bought the DVD as soon as it was out and watched it again. I am very pleased to say that it did not disappoint the second time around. I would highly recommend this film to anyone, providing they understand that : a) it is an action movie b) it has elements of a horror movie c) there are some supernatural elements to it d) it is set in 1780 in France e) it was originally filmed in French
If you can handle all of these points, you will love this film. Truly superb film-making. This is the only film I have rated to which I have accorded a ranking of 10.
This is a grandiose monster movie from France that delivers the perfect
blend of slick style and unsophisticated, gothic melodrama to make it one
the most appealing film fantasies in a long while. The international
success of the film is not hard to understand; it's exhilarating in the
way that the old Hammer horror films were in their heyday. Everything
this elaborate movie is terrifically tacky, particularly the stunning
production design. It's like seeing those artless, wilderness paintings
containing hidden animal images come to life. The characters come off as
they were lifted right off of some garish paperback romance-novel cover.
Best of all, the film has some nifty flourishes of sex and violence sadly
missing from the current spate of half-baked, PG-13 Hollywood product.
While some seem to be complaining of one martial-arts fight too many,
creature effects or simple-minded plotting; in this case, it's like
about KING KONG being over the top. This is a contemporary B-movie (albeit
an expensive, subtitled one) for those who appreciate a good time at the
movies. It delivers the kind of satisfaction audiences used to get seeing
the work of Mario Bava or Ray Harryhausen; and that's saying a lot!
Le Pacte des Loups is a fairly impressive movie. What other movie can spend two and a half hours on a ravaging monster fought by a scientist and his loyal Iroqois "brother" in 18th century France, and keep its audience enraptured? Its plot is a bit obscure in places, admittedly, leaving the audience not so much in suspense as confusion, but this is the unconventionality that comes with such a unique work. The acting was a bit above average, the actors and actresses combining well with the enchanting atmosphere and succeeding in making memorable characters. The score also contributes to the film's mysterious mood, and great cinematography (although occasionally overdone) helps it out too. While all this goes a long way to making a great film, it is the dazzling action sequences that make it a classic. The choreography is great, the sound effects make you feel as if you're standing a foot away, and the mystery of the movie is such that nearly every battle's outcome is uncertain. If the romance is trite, a few lines seem out of place, and the plot falters a bit, overall, this is still quite a movie to watch if you're looking for a lot of adventure and action. [8/10]
I am very much in awe of this movie. Brotherhood of the Wolf encompasses every genre of film; martial arts, action, romance, thriller, horror, drama, everything. Keeping with the spirit of all these genres, it invokes many emotions from the viewer. A beast is terrorizing the countryside of Gevaudan and the villagers believe no man or bullet can put it down. Enter the ultimate Jack of all Trades, Grégoire de Fronsac, and his brother-in-arms, Mani, who have come to town to stop/capture this menacing beast. The story starts here and has so many twists and turns it could make your head spin. The cast is incredible. I have no idea who this Samuel Le Bihan guy is, but he absolutely rocks it as Fronsac. This also has potential to be a breakout role for Mark Dacascos but we'll have to wait and see on that one. Even if he doesn't make it beyond the B action flick, Mani will always be an unforgettable character. And Vincent Cassel is incredibly suave and creepy at the same time. Brotherhood is an absolutely beautiful example of what film can look like. The cinematography combined with the editing makes for some truly fantastic scenes. Let's not forget the fight choreography. There are some tremendous fight sequences that rival those from Hong Kong cinema. Some movies become great because they have that one moment that will forever live on in your memory; Moments that are undoubtedly awesome. Brotherhood of the Wolf is simply just one big moment. Other than the films by Luc Besson, I've never really been a follower of French cinema. But with the coming of this movie and the equally dark and beautiful Crimson Rivers I could get into it.
The presence of Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin in "Midnight Run" seemed
cause many people to wildly overrate that standard action movie;
the we-hate-Forrest-Gump crowd approached the quietly compelling "Cast
with too much prejudice to view it fairly. In "Brotherhood of the Wolf"
English-language title of "Le Pacte des loups"), a character says that
told in Latin can be seen as truth; the fact that this is a commercial
in French (with subtitles so you can fool yourself into feeling clever
you're watching an art movie) may explain why some are very, very
enthusiastic about it. Not that the movie doesn't deserve praise (it does
a lot of ways); it's just that I wonder if they'd have been as impressed
it been the identical film shot in English and with an American cast (or
with Americans other than Mark Dacascos).
Based on the French tale of a deadly creature that roamed the Gallic countryside in the 18th century and was never caught, "Le Pacte des loups" plays like a better, more coherent, more frightening version of "Sleepy Hollow," with the representative from the major city (Samuel le Bihan)and his Iroquois Indian blood brother (Dacascos) sent to investigate the gruesome goings-on, and gradually finding out there's far more than meets the eye - although unlike "Sleepy Hollow," which went overboard with the decapitations, the murders are kept to a minimum in the early going (we do see the beast attacking two of its female victims (the beast only attacks women and children) in the first half, but most of the details are kept to our imaginations... unlike later on in the movie). The movie takes its time setting the pace and mood, slipping in a few clues to the resolution - one hint: watch out for the gun - and risking losing the audience because it really is pretty methodical; but once all the main characters have been introduced, and once past the halfway point, the movie really starts to deliver.
Director/co-writer Christophe Gans leaves several narrative threads hanging, but barring a few plot holes this doesn't damage the movie's overall effect because so much stuff is woven into it; the tunnel vision of several of the characters, religious symbolism, conspiracy, a hint of incest between a crippled aristocratic hunter (Vincent Cassel) and his sister (Emilie Dequenne) that comes up in a crucial moment of the plot... provided you don't think it over too much afterwards (for starters, why does the beast not go after men?), or simply think on the movie's impressive visuals (the first fight scene and several thereafter are in slow motion, but when le Bihan launches an attack on the baddies towards the end - for reasons I won't divulge here - they come in regular speed; some of the CGI effects are a bit awkward, but the work of Jim Henson's Creature Shop is thankfully less like the Bloop in "Lost in Space" and more like their usual effective stuff, with a creature guaranteed to give you nightmares), it works just fine.
Mention should also be made of the fine score from Joseph LoDuca, no stranger to scoring uncharacteristically zesty historical stories after Hercules and Xena - his cue for our heroes going hunting and the final scene are standouts, although I could have lived without that song over the credits (sung in English, by the way); of the cast's acting, with special nods to Cassel, Dacascos, and Monica Bellucci as the prostitute who turns out to be more involved with the plot than it appears (if only American actors (and while we're at it, British ones) were as multilingual as their Continental counterparts); and of the brutal but effective fight scenes, with a particularly impressive climax. While this isn't the all-timer some say it is (that first hour IS a problem), I enjoyed it in the end; despite its reputation, French cinema has always had its accessible offerings (let's not forget it gave us "Diva," Brigitte Bardot, "La Cage aux Folles" and Luc Besson, "The Fifth Element" notwithstanding), and this is further proof.
As for Monica Bellucci naked - definitely one of the most memorable (and unlike the other ones, decidedly pleasant) moments in the movie, with Gans throwing in an amazing dissolve from Miss Bellucci's topography to that of the French mountains. For once, Jim Henson's Creature Shop doesn't contribute the most impressive bodywork to a film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a movie I kept *meaning* to watch but for one reason or another never got around to. Last night I finally settled in with the requisite snacks and prepared to enjoy a werewolf movie.
I was surprised to find it was something different. It's a period mystery, set in 18th century France. That's not to say lycanthrope is not a subject of the movie but... well, you should watch it and see for yourself.
I'm not knowledgeable enough of France during that time (or most other periods) to comment on whether the movie is authentic in its detail. I can say, however, that the style is superb.
The director, Christophe Gans, uses Hong Kong choreographer Philip Kwok for the fight scenes. A smart move as many directors try to take on that job themselves. Action choreography is a discipline unto itself and, though a director may excel in dramatic or comedic execution they can fail miserably here. Gans' use of Kwok gives the movie a well presented quality throughout.
The story is also nicely done. As I said, it's a tale of mystery. A fantastic mystery, to be sure, but fans of the genre will surely be pleased. Le Bihan makes for a charismatic investigator and Dacascos as his Native American ally provides further dimension to the story.
The pacing could have been better. I saw the directors cut, which is well over 2 hours. As a mystery movie, one cannot expect constant action but there were times when the movie tended to drag under the weight of unnecessary scenes.
And then there were deleted scenes that should have, at least in part, been included. In the deleted scenes section of the DVD, Gans commented that the first fight scene (an exciting sequence in the rain with our two heroes facing a troop of French soldiers in drag) was shortened to delete Le Bihan's participation. Gans stated that he didn't want the audience to see Le Bihan in full action so early in the movie. However, when he does go into full martial arts mode late in the film, fighting the titular group, it's a little disconcerting. Since he displayed *no* martial arts prowess beforehand in the rather lengthy movie, we're left asking, "Now where did this come from?"
As far as the language, I recommend whichever method allows you to best watch the movie with the least distraction. I preferred the dubbed English so I wouldn't have to look at the subtitles. HOWEVER, the dubbed voices are not well acted. I will undoubtedly watch it again in the native language without subs now that I know the story.
Overall, this is an enjoyable mystery movie with plenty of action, a well done plot and fine acting. Check it out!
6.5 out of 10.
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