Film: Brotherhood of the Wolf
French film, originally titled Le Pacte des Loups
, released in 2001 and directed by Christophe Gans, who was previously known for his Live-Action Adaptation
of Crying Freeman
It is very
loosely based on the real, historical mystery of "the Beast of Gévaudan" - a creature which allegedly killed almost 100 people, most of them women and children, over a three year period in a remote, rural area of France. In the summer of 1764, King Louis XV arranged a great hunt, and a wolf claimed to be the beast was slain, but subsequently more killings took place. "The Beast" has never been identified.
The hero of the film is nobleman Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a soldier/scientist/taxidermist
recently returned from Colonial America with his sidekick
, the wise kung fu
Indian Mani (Mark Dacascos).
Fronsac and Mani are quickly enlisted to hunt down the beast and study it. Along the way, they encounter a myserious group of gypsies and a number of French aristocrats who may or may not be behind the beast's attacks. Vincent Cassel plays a one-armed hunting enthusiast who also takes an interest in the beast. Monica Bellucci also stars as a seductive Italian prostitute who is far more than she seems.
Overall, the film is notable for cramming just about every possible genre it can into its rather generous running time. It's a kung fu film, a monster movie, a mystery, a romance, a political thriller and a historical epic all rolled into one great big hodge-podge.
Tropes evident in Brotherhood of the Wolf include:
- Action Prologue: The film begins with a martial arts fight between the two heroes and some local goons. The original script began with an extended chase through Parisian sewers.
- All There in the Manual: According to supplimental materials, the martial art that Manni displays proficiency in is actually a pre-modern form of Savate; taught to him by Fronsac after aiding him during the French and Indian War.
- Animal Motifs: Lampshaded by Mani with Indian totems.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Well, some of them, though this is subverted in the bookends.
- Artistic License – Biology: It's never really made clear what, exactly, the Beast is. All we know is that it's the offspring of an animal that Jean-François brought back with him from Africa. Word of God is that it's a lion, but it doesn't really look or act like a typical one, probably as a result of the training and alterations it received.
- An Axe to Grind: Mani and his tomahawk.
- Ax-Crazy: Jean-François. Aside for being the Beast's master is also a sadist psychopath obsessed with his own sister. No wonder the cult hired him for the dirty work.
- Back from the Dead: Played with. Fronsac was presumed dead after being poisoned by Sylvia, turns out the effects were just temporary.
- Badass: Fronsac, Mani and Jean-François.
- Badass Native: Mani, a native American Indian and exceptionally skilled fighter both hand-to-hand with a tomahawk.
- Badass Longcoat: The greatcoats worn by Fronsac and Mani at the very beginning. The image was used on most promotional material, even though they only wear them in one scene.
- The Baroness: Sylvia.
- The Beast Master: Jean-François, apparently from his time spent in Africa.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Mani, judging from the prostitute's reaction.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: La Bavarde and Jean Francois.
- Bittersweet Ending: The villains of the piece are killed and their plot is thwarted, but the heroes don't fare much better. Mani's dead; the much feared beast was just an innocent animal who was forced to slaughter people by its sadistic owner, and Fronsac has to Mercy Kill it; the Marquis d'Apcher - pretty much one of the few decent people in this whole thing - is recalling the story as he's about to be sent to the guillotine; and all he can do is hope that Fronsac and Marianne got their happily ever after. At least they seem to have got it.
- Admittedly the REAL Marquis d'Apcher lived through the Terror and died in Barcelona in 1798. So... spared by real life?
- Blade Below the Shoulder: The gypsy men's preferred weapons are long metal claws attached to a handle.
- Brain Fever: Marianne falls deadly ill by the end of the film after being raped by Jean-François. Don't worry, though; she gets better.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Jean-François towards Marianne. It's never quite clear what exactly happens on his mind, but he looks quite psychotic and certainly wants her.
- Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, Chekhov's handcrafted silver bullet. Also, the bone-sword, glimpsed briefly in Jean-Francois' occult Room Full of Crazy.
- Church Militant: Sylvia is actually a spy for the Vatican.
- Combat Hand Fan: Sylvia slits a woman's throat with a serrated fan.
- Cult: More of a secret society, really. The eponymous Brotherhood of the Wolf is a group of conservative aristocrats seeking to hold on to the old ways by putting the fear of God into the hearts of the commoners by way of highly trained, homicidal beast. From their point of view, perhaps a justifiable plan, seeing as the film ends with aristocratic good guy Thomas d'Apcher - now old, he's been retelling experiences from when he was a young man - being taken to his execution by revolutionaries.
- Dark Chick: La Bavarde, the epileptic gypsy girl who apparently can't get enough violence.
- Designated Girl Fight: Sylvia is the one to take out La Bavarde, though Fronsac does kill a number of other gypsy women. It's more of a Curb-Stomp Battle though.
- Does Not Like Guns: Mani. Tomahawks Are Just Better
- Dragon-in-Chief: Although Sardis is the leader of the Brotherhood and the big decision-maker, it is Jean-François, the Beast's trainer, who is the film's primary antagonist.
- Dual Wielding: Fronsac uses two daggers with lethal efficiency during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Ermine Cape Effect: And most of its Sister Tropes.
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Fronsac and Mani use a French form of stick-fighting called Canne De Combat mixed with the martial art of savate, a French kicking style also used by the antagonists. However, because the action scenes are filmed in an Eastern style, many audience members could find 18th centry Frenchmen "kung fu fighting" to be strange. In one instance, for example, Jean-François's heavy swordfighting can be easily mistaken for kendo.
- Fake Nationality: Iroquois Mani is played by Marc Dakascos, who is Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Irish in ancestry.
- Faking the Dead: Fronsac.
- Facial Markings: Mani's warpaint.
- Femme Fatale: Sylvia.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Thomas, Marquis d'Apcher, tells the story of hero Grégoire de Fronsac.
- Gangsta Style: Fronsac fires two flintlock pistols this way during a target practice sequence. Hilarious in Hindsight if you know anything about flintlock weapons: not only would aiming them that way make an already-inaccurate weapon even more so, but they simply wouldn't be able to fire in that position.
- Genius Bruiser: Fronsac is both an accomplished soldier as well as one of the best scientists in his field.
- Genre Shift: More like genre blender, actually.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Fronsac uses two swords during the climax. Luckily the villain brought his own.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Gregoire and Mani
- High-Class Call Girl: Slyvia claims to be "expensive".
- The Ingenue: The count of Monragias, Jean-Francois and Marianne's father. And one of the few aristocrats who knew nothing about the Cult.
- Karmic Death: Henri Sardis, creator and leader of the Brotherhood escapes arrest only to be chased down by the pack of wolves, a number of which were previously slaughtered en masse under the misguided assumptions of being the Beast.
- Let's Get Dangerous:
- While Fronsac is demonstrated to be a tough guy right from the start, Mani seems to be the real muscle of the group. In the third act, however, Fronsac pulls out the stops and basically murders 3/4 of the cast.
- A villainous example occurs with Jean-François, who spends most of the film as a somewhat foppish, crippled aristocrat who likes guns. In the third act, he reveals that he's not a cripple after all, but a rather hulking bruiser with a sword made from an animal spine.
- Love Interest: Marianne.
- Magical Native American: Mani has an air of mysticism about him -according to Fronsac he was "a sort of priest" to his tribe, presumably a shaman and/or medicine man- and seems to have some sort of psychic connection with a wolf. He also shows hints of being fully aware of the archetype in-universe and quite the Deadpan Snarker.
- Malevolent Masked Men: The conspirators wear red cloaks and masks.
- Mercy Kill: Fronsac, towards the Beast
- Mook Chivalry
- Ms. Fanservice: Monica Bellucci once again displays her willingness to disrobe. No one complains.
- Ninja Pirate Robot Zombie: Fronsac and Mani.
- Non-Malicious Monster: the Beast is actually a big lion disguised as a monster with metal spikes and shards by the Brotherhood members and trained to scare and/or kill the villagers. But the Brotherhood are the real Beasts and not the Beast itself.
- Obfuscating Disability: Jean-François's right arm has not been amputated, it was just horribly mangled when he trained the beast. He also let his fingernails growing.
- Of Corsets Sexy: All the women wear one, but especially the prostitutes, for whom it's their only clothing.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Justified in that we're moving among mid-18th century French aristocrats.
- Production Posse: Christophe Gans directed Mark Dacascos in Crying Freeman.
- Psycho for Hire: Jean-Francois to the Brotherhood.
- The Quiet One: Mani doesn't talk much; in fact he doesn't have a single line for the first half-hour or so, leaving it slightly ambiguous whether he actually speaks French. It's not clear if he does this deliberately so people will say things around him that they otherwise wouldn't of if he's just a man of few words by nature.
- The Reveal: Jean-François didn't lose his arm in a hunting accident. It just got badly mangled, and he's had it tied behind his back pretending to be crippled ever since, probably to throw the scent off his trail as the enforcer of the Brotherhood.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The story is bookended with an older Thomas d'Apcher, a good-hearted aristocrat, about to be killed by a revolutionary mob.
- Right Through His Pants: Fronsac with Sylvia, a strange example in an otherwise breezy film.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Fronsac after Mani is killed.
- Sacrificial Lion: Mani.
- Scary Impractical Armor: The Beast wears armor covered in bone and metal spikes that is simply there to make it appear more monstrous. The armor doesn't appear to hinder its movements, however.
- Scenery Porn: Both played straight (the set designs are gorgeous), and with a bit of a pun (the naked form of Monica Bellucci forms a couple of the hills in a lingering outdoor shot).
- Shout-Out: The Whip Sword is lifted directly from Soul Calibur
- Silver Bullet: Jean-François' signature bullets. Autographed, no less.
- Sinister Minister: More subtle than most examples, but Henri Sardis certainly qualifies.
- Slashed Throat
- Suspiciously Stealthy Predator
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Sort of. As his thoat has been slashed by Fronsac, Jean-François grabs one of Fronsac swords with his Whip Sword. Fronsac lets the sword go when Jean-François pulls his whipsword back to reassemble it, impaling Jean-François in the process. The slow motion in that scene feels like a Special Effect Failure though.
- Took a Level in Badass: Fronsac after Mani is killed. Or at least, it seems that way from the point of the view of the rest of the characters, since up until then Fronsac had been content to let Mani handle Badass duty. It turns out he was just as Badass as Mani all along, if not more so, and when properly motivated he plows a path of utter destruction that makes a viewer wonder why he even kept Mani around for at all.
- Too Kinky to Torture
- Town with a Dark Secret: Oh boy...
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Beast of Gevaudan is the name given to a man-eating wolf-like creature that terrorized the the province of Gevaudan from 1764 to 1767. Suffice to say, the director and the screenplay writers took plenty of liberties on the story.
- Weaponized Animal: The beast.
- Werewolf: Not really, but the Gevadaun myth is so often associated with werewolves that the movie must at least play with this trope in passing.
- Whip Sword: Jean-François wields one in the climatic duel with Fronsac. How it is built looks difficult to describe, but the blade's bulk and its inusual configuration (it's made from an animal vertebral column) probably help to shelter some kind of mechanism to keep it extended while used as a sword.
- The Wise Prince: Thomas, young Marquis d'Apcher, one of the few aristocrats that fully trusts Fronsac and who sees Mani as a person, and not as a savage. It's possible that this is why the other aristocrats never considered him to join their cult.
- Would Hit a Girl: Mani and Fronsac don't have much of a problem fighting the female gypsies, though Mani seems to go a bit easier on them in their intial dust-up. Except La Bavarde, the woman they saved when they first arrived into town. This ends up costing Mani his life.