Brotherhood of the Wolf
By Chad Van Wagner
Brotherhood of the Wolf is undoubtedly the greatest 18th century kickboxing French nobility werewolf film ever made, which is, um, saying something. Samuel LeBihan stars as what looks like a French David Lee Roth, who along with his trusty (and ass-whupping) sidekick Mani (Mark Dacascos,) arrives in the French countryside to rid it of a mysterious lupine creature that is mutilating the locals. While the above description may paint it as a big, dumb action flick with a trippy twist, there’s actually an extremely complex and well-thought-out dramatic plot involving gypsies, religion, incest, sin, conspiracy theories that would make Oliver Stone blush, and, of course, enormous amounts of kickboxing. Not to mention a surreal creature, politics, loads of gore, and yes… subtitles. Brotherhood…, a French film, put Europe, along with Asia, in the ever-expanding group of regions that can make a big, kick-ass action film a lot better than Americans can.
Strangely, the film isn’t cheesy at all. It’s saved from its own potential silliness by the realism of it all (the film is, after all, based on a French legend which arose from an actual incident). Granted, when Gregoire (LeBihan) and Mani paint themselves up and lure the creature into their giant-swinging-spiky-log trap, we leave historical fiction and find ourselves in the middle of Wile E. Coyote territory, but even those outlandish sequences blend seamlessly with the gorgeously shot and acted set pieces. Despite it’s unbelievably, there is genuine tension all over this film, even when there’s no wire-fu in sight. It functions very well as an epic, with or without the shock value, and even though there are extended action-free scenes throughout the picture, it’s always fascinating.
The DVD is, unfortunately, rather generic. The film (widescreen, 2:35:1 ratio), a few standard extras (deleted scenes, etc.) and that’s it. If possible, grab the Canadian release, which is a triple DVD set, full of pretty much anything and everything you could want concerning the Citizen Kane of French werewolf kickboxing.