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When locals of the southern French community of Gevaudan are attacked by a beast-like creature resembling a wolf, which kills numerous women and children, the King of France sends experienced naturalist Gregoire de Fronsac (Bihan) and his native American off-sider Mani (Dacascos) to investigate. While hunting the creature is no easy task, the mystery surrounding the beast and the deaths grow ever more perplexing, and when Fronsac befriends local socialite and keen hunter Jean Francois de Morangias (Cassel) and falls in love with his sister, Marianne (Dequenne), thoughts of a conspiracy soon rise in his mind.

Review by Craig Miller:
You could be forgiven for thinking that a highly stylized martial arts film heavily influenced by the likes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, combined with the angst and drama of a period romance and the horror and gore of a big Hollywood creature feature, would struggle to break through its genre identity crisis long enough to appease fans of all said film categories. But director Christophe Gans has seemingly managed the impossible, with Brotherhood Of The Wolf a triumph in its attempts to amalgamate a variety of genres, and make a film far greater than just the sum of its parts.

Visually the film is stunning, with dazzling cinematography. The film’s beautiful locations and the use of a variety of clever visual/special effects (except for the awful work done on the beast itself) combine to create a very real and constant sense of foreboding as the highly charged atmosphere (it’s based in part on a true story) builds throughout its duration. Leading this charge on your visual senses are the extremely well choreographed fight scenes, with the Asian martial arts style of one-at-a-time fighting blending effortlessly into the rural scenes of the French countryside. A more beautiful meeting of cultures there has not been!

The 18th century French country setting, along with the costumes and culture of the time, also allows Gans a fantastic juxtaposition of lifestyles. The constant contrast between the French aristocracy and the crassness of peasant life is played to great effect, making the film’s world seem so much bigger and smaller all at the same time, as each struggles against the same evil. All the key roles are filled nicely, but carrying the film in the integral protagonist’s role as Fronsac by Samuel le Bihan, who delivers a great performance, as does Vincent Cassel as the tortured Jean Francois de Morangias. A little bit of something for everyone here, and perfect in the event you want to watch a movie but unsure what you are in the mood for. Death, love, tragedy, thrills and even some laughs. What more can you ask for. 

At first glance this two-disc set seems loaded with quality extras, but upon closer inspection there is very little that stands out as high quality. The 80-minute making of featurette, while giving plenty of interesting behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew members, is far from comprehensive, and the one hour of interview footage from the major cast members and director Christophe Gans at times borders on the monotonous, as we listen to how great the experience was, how great Gans is, and how great their fellow actors are, over and over again…and in French! (with subtitles).

The interview with Michael Louis is certainly the highlight, as this French historian and writer reveals some really interesting insights into and theories about the real legend of the Beast of Gevaudan. 

The six deleted scenes are also worthy of some time, with comments and introductions from director Gans explaining the scenes, their place in the film and their relevant context, adding some depth to a DVD special feature that can sometimes be a little bland. Average punters will be more satisfied in tuning in and out solely for the movie rather than wading through another sea of mostly promo DVD guff, as collections of bonus material like these are made as promotional material and assembled to please die hard fans rather than entertain the masses.

Published July 17, 2003

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CAST: Vincent Cassel, Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Monica Bellucci, Emilie Dequenne

DIRECTOR: Christophe Gans

SCRIPT: Christophe Gans & Stephane Cabel

RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo

SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with French historian and writer Michael Louis, making of documentary, deleted scenes, interviews with cast and director, filmographies, storyboards, trailer.


DVD RELEASE: Retail: July 2, 2003, (Rental early 2003)

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