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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Brotherhood Of the Wolf
Brotherhood Of the Wolf
Universal // R // October 1, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 9, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


"The Brotherhood Of the Wolf" is one of the most beautifully filmed, over-the-top, chaotic and fascinating films I've seen in quite some time. It is a horror film, it is a martial arts picture, it is a period piece, it is a mystery, it is many things and remarkably, the ambitious epic largely succeeds at any genre it touches. The film is reportedly based upon the real "Beast of Gevaudan", which terrorized the French countryside in the 1700's, but the film takes that tale and launches the story into something that, while not perfect, is delightfully ridiculous and wholly entertaining.

The story opens in 1764, where Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) has arrived in the area to hunt down the creature, reportedly a wolf-like beast whose terrifying attack is shown in one of the film's opening scenes. Accompanied by Indian companion Mani (Mark Dacascos), the two start their investigation into the beast's whereabouts. The film provides Fronsac's character with not one, but two love interests to spend time with during his investigation - there's Marianne (Emilie Dequenne), a wealthy aristocrat and local prostitute Madame Sylvia (Monica Bellucci, the stunning actress from "Malena").

Of course, there's more than meets the eye, as the two warriors come upon a wild conspiracy behind the beast's existence, not to mention suspicious characters - such as one-armed and short-tempered Jean Francois (Vincent Cassel, star of Mathieu Kassovitz's stunning French drama "La Haine"), Count De Morangias (Jean Yanne) and the local priest Sardis (Jean Francois Stevenin).

Gans' film has the right idea about the tone, which is genuinely creepy and grounded, keeping the over-the-top picture from going too far overboard. The mostly serious performances also considerably help the audience's involvement with the characters. Gans also uses a rather "Jaws"-like way of presenting the beast, keeping the creature largely covered for most of the film and allowing our imagination to work out what the beast must look like. The mixture of genres could certainly have been a mess, but Gans merges martial arts with poltical drama with romantic period quite passably, aside from a few exceptions where the fight scenes, while amazing, don't quite fit.

The film's look, tone and atmosphere are also extraordinary. The fight sequences certainly are one of the aspects that benefit most from the film's extraordinary cinematography and editing. Superb trickery, such as variable motion, freeze frames and other aspects really give many scenes a very dynamic and visually rich appearance. The production design, which occasionally is warmer and brighter and occasionally looks a bit like Burton's "Sleepy Hollow", is also exceptional.

The film isn't without flaws, though: the 144-minute tale is clearly trying for an epic feel, but occasionally goes on a little too long for its own good, making for a few patches scattered throughout the movie where the pace drags somewhat. Small moments of the story could have also used either some filling out or clarification.

Overall, while "Brotherhood" seems to have been inspired by many sources, director Gans has still managed to create a movie that feels fresh and largely exciting, managing to stuff a lot of material and a whole lot of different genres into one well-crafted film.


The DVD


VIDEO: "The Brotherhood Of the Wolf" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although the film is relatively low-budget at a reported $25m, the extraordinary locations and the beautiful, sleek cinematography by Dan Laustsen gives the film the look of one twice its budget. Universal's presentation offers the film's amazing visuals wonderfully, as the transfer is nothing short of outstanding. Sharpness and detail are certainly noteworthy, as the picture takes on a well-defined and crisp appearance, with strong depth to the image and a smooth, "film-like" look.

Flaws were few-and-far-between. Some minor and relatively brief edge enhancement was spotted in a couple of scenes, but really didn't take away from the viewing experience very much. Upon closer inspection, I also managed to spot a few very small specks on the print used, but there really wasn't anything in the way of larger or more noticable wear. Pixelation was not spotted, nor were any other faults.

The film's bold, dark color palette looked stunning throughout this presentation, appearing very well-saturated and clean, with no smearing or other faults. Black level was also strong, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.


SOUND: "The Brotherhood of the Wolf" is presented by Universal with both the film's original French soundtrack and a dubbed-English presentation, both in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the original language soundtrack is certainly the prefered choice, I actually thought that the dubbed presentation was not that bad (as dubbed soundtracks go). The film's soundtrack presents masterful sound design, as the picture plays intensely with the rear speakers, especially in the film's second (and much more action-packed) half. There are some thrilling moments where the sound effects of the fight sequences and some of the creepier scenes really open out into the room nicely, putting the viewer into the middle of the action skillfully. Audio quality is excellent, as the Dolby Digital soundtrack is often more dynamic than I'd expected, providing strong bass and offering Joseph LoDuca (Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" series)'s score with excellent clarity and warmth. Ambient sounds and other sound effects are clearly and crisply reproduced, often offering solid power behind them.

MENUS: Basic main & sub menus with slight animation.

EXTRAS: Director Chrisophe Gans introduces 5 deleted scenes in a feature that runs just under 40 minutes. Unfortunately, there isn't much else, as cast/crew bios, production notes and the film's theatrical trailer (2.35:1/5.1) round out the supplemental area. For those seeking a Special Edition of "Brotherhood", Canadian studio TVA International will be releasing a 3-disc special edition in October, as well. Those who seek that edition will need to import it from a Canadian retailer.


Final Thoughts: A breathtaking, violent, beautifully filmed and intense picture, "Brotherhood Of the Wolf" is certainly worth watching. Universal's DVD doesn't offer much in the way of supplements, but audio/video quality are excellent. Highly recommended.

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