Le Pacte Des Loups [The Brotherhood Of The Wolf] (2001)

(In theaters, June 2002) I really should have liked this film. On paper, it sure sounds like a winner: An action-packed monster movie set in medieval France, starring a libertine scientist, his Mohawk kung-fu master, Monica Bellucci as a courtesan and a villain played by Vincent Cassel? With wire-fu action scenes inspired and staged by Hong Kong martial artists? Mixing political intrigue and religious conspiracies? I’m there! Unfortunately, while Le Pacte Des Loups has fascinating components, it never manages to put everything together seamlessly. The film jumps from one emotional register to another without smooth transitions and uses various cinematic tricks without seemingly understanding why they should be used. The result is a loud, incoherent mess that ironically feels very, very long. (It doesn’t help that the last forty minutes are repetitive and essentially useless.) This is a film by technicians, not storytellers; the plot is weak and senseless, whereas the images are often gripping. (I laughed out loud at a cheeky transition pan shot that neatly dissolves from Monica Bellucci’s curvy naked body to a CGI shot of hills and valleys.) There is a palpable sense of missed opportunities amidst the stunning scenery, the expensive special effects and the interesting back-story. It’s just too bad that nothing more intriguing has been done with it.

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