The Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Le Pacte Des Loups)

Don't you love films that are 'Based on a true story'? Should they not have 'Based on a true story, before some liberal licensing by the film makers using ridiculous assumptions render it highly implausible to achieve these events in real life'? 'Based on a true story' can achieve good results such as in the case of The Ghost And The Darkness and Pamela Anderson And Tommy Lee: Honeymoon Video. Luckily The Brotherhood Of The Wolf falls into the good result category.

The 'true' aspect is that the story is based on Beast of Gevaudan who, in 1764 killed over 60 women and children by tearing out their hearts and vital organs. There were many theories at the time ranging from mountain lions, wolves and even werewolves, however as the real Beast was never caught or killed no-one really know what it was, but back to the film.

The film starts with an elderly aristocratic reminiscing about the Beast and the events surrounding it. Flashback to the year 1764, where the Beast Of Gevauden is terrorising the countryside laying waste to women and children, yet it eludes capture. King Louis XV hearing about the turmoil in the Gevaudanian province sends two men to investigate - a naturalist/scientist Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Mohawk 'brother' Mani (Mark Dascascos). They have been assigned to investigate and possibly rid the countryside of whatever might be terrorising the countryside.

The locals are scared, the aristocracy is amused by Fronsac and his 'savage' servant (as they see him) and the militia is wasting time killing wolves left right and centre. In amongst this Fronsac and Mani are helped or hindered by various people, including the strange women at the local brothel, even stranger gypsies, the clergy and the army captain sent to kill the creature. Fronsac is further distracted by the lovely aristocrat Marianne (Emilie Dequenne) much to the chagrin of her one-armed, snobby brother Francois (Vincent Casell).

As Fronsac and Mani get closer to solving the mystery of the Beast and get close enough to destroy it, they discover that the beast is the least of their problems.

The movie defies classification and switches between genres faster than a small Mexican mouse in a sombrero. Apart from the obvious horror elements you also get the occult, guns and swordplay, kung fu, politics, religion, aristocracy and some kinky sex thrown in for good measure. The whole production has a Merchant-Ivory feel to it with its lavish sets and costume designs. Christophe Gans has directed this with a great deal of flair and the imagery is excellent, from the sweeping countryside to the visually stunning and excellently choreographed kung fu fighting. Speaking of kung fu - how does a Native American medicine man know kung fu? And well enough to kick the arse out of dozens of men (and women). The creature is a product of the fabled Jim Henson Creature Shop and CGI. It looks good at times but some scenes make it too CGI'd (if you know what I mean). The attacks are directed brilliantly by Gans and have a real sense of terror.

Performances by most of the cast are good but Mark Dascascos excels as the strong, silent type. He's martial arts abilities are excellent as shown in previous films (albeit in B-movie fair) such as American Samurai and the underrated Crying Freeman.  Samuel Le Bihan as Grégoire de Fronsac makes for a good lead, but you just can't get the fact that Mani kicks more arse and in better style than him.

On the whole, Brotherhood Of The Wolf is a stylish thriller, which encompasses many genres, and arrives without the fanfare of other hyped foreign films such as Amelie. However, it might not be for everyone's tastes. For one the film is in French with English subtitles, is also long at 142 minutes (could have easily been trimmed down by 30 minutes) and some scenes are not pleasant viewing (not just the violent Beast attacks but there is also an incestual rape - not really a date flick then). But don't be put off by the negative points, as the film is a rare gem tucked out of view by Hollywood's shadow.

 SCORE 8/10