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Film / Brotherhood of the Wolf

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Brotherhood of the Wolf (originally titled Le Pacte des Loups) is a 2001 French film 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 corresponding to modern-day Lozère. 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-practicing American Native Mani (Mark Dacascos).


Fronsac and Mani are quickly enlisted to hunt down the beast and study it. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious group of gypsies and a number of sleazy aristocrats. 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.


Tropes evident in Brotherhood of the Wolf include:

  • Action Prologue: The film begins with a martial arts fight between Mani and some local goons under a heavy rain. The original script began with an extended chase through Parisian sewers.
  • All There in the Manual: According to supplemental materials, the martial art that Mani 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. However, his style and Fronsac’s look rather different.
  • Animal Motifs: Lampshaded by Mani with Indian totems.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Well, some of them, though this is subverted in the bookends.
  • An Axe to Grind: Mani and his tomahawk.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jean-François. Aside for being the Beast's master, he is also a sadistic psychopath obsessed with his own sister. No wonder the cult hired him for its 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 Bookworm: Fronsac is a scientist by profession, being one of the most accomplished in his field, a veteran of the French-Indian Wars who rose to Captain through valor in battle, and shown to be just as skilled as Mani in melee combat.
  • Badass Native: Mani, a native American Indian and exceptionally skilled tracker and fighter both hand-to-hand and with tomahawks.
  • 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.
  • Battle in the Rain: Mani's opening fight against the local thugs takes place in a heavy downpour.
  • 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 — 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 there are hints that they did get it. Actually, 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 outside of his mind, but he looks quite psychotic and certainly wants her. And he ends up raping 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.
  • Cool Sword: Doesn't get much cooler than the one used by Jean-François: a BFS made from a large animal spine... whose segments are linked together by an extendable chain, allowing it to be converted into a Whip Sword and back again in an instant.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: one of the first thing's we're told about Fronsac is that he's "a wit," which he lives up to especially when flirting with Marianne (who herself can give as good as she gets).
  • 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.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Beast is badly wounded after the fight in the forest, and spends the climax being tended to by the old Gypsy.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Mani prefers a Tomahawk. He says "Too much smoke, too much noise, bad smell."
  • 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. Mani's style is clearly based on Mark Dacascos's training in background in Wun Hop Kuen Do, and Jean-François's heavy swordfighting can be easily mistaken for kendo.
  • The Faceless: King Louis XV is only seen from behind.
  • Facial Markings: Mani's warpaint.
  • Faking the Dead: Fronsac.
  • Fearsome Critters of American Folklore: Fronsac shows the Fur Bearing Trout to French aristocrats until one catches onto the forgery. It allows him to talk about his theory on the nature of the Wolf.
  • 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.
  • Genre Shift: More like genre blender, actually.
  • Great White Hunter: Fronsac is sent to investigate the beast because of his skill as a naturalist and a hunter.
  • 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: Sylvia claims to be "expensive".
  • Hunter Trapper: The hunters brought in to hunt the beast are a rough and ready bunch who fit this mold.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 and quite the Deadpan Snarker.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The conspirators wear red cloaks and masks.
  • Marked Bullet: Jean-François uses silver bullets to "sign" his shots. This ends up coming back to haunt him later.
  • Mercy Kill: Fronsac, towards the Beast.
  • Mook Chivalry: The opening brawl, while stylish, consists of the mooks circling around Mani and doing nothing, until it's their time to charge him.
  • 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, and Jean-François in particular, are the real villains.
  • 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.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Actual werwolves don't appear, but the Gevaudan myth is so often associated with them that the movie must at least play with this trope in passing, most notably with Jean-François' silver bullets, with Fronsac teasing him about believing in werewolves (it's really so that his bullets will be distinctive).
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Justified in that we're moving among mid-18th century French aristocrats.
  • 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 or if he's just a man of few words by nature; either possibility would be in-character for him.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Fronsac and Mani, respectively. It’s reflected in their fighting styles: Mani's is graceful and based in a continuously flowing rhythm, and he avoids killing, but Fronsac's is savage and direct, relying in linear attacks, and he certainly doesn't care about butchering opponents.
  • 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 SoulCalibur.
  • Silver Bullet: Jean-François' signature bullets. Autographed, no less.
  • Silent Snarker: Mani doesn't talk much but that doesn't stop him from making his opinions on certain people abundantly clear.
  • Sinister Minister: More subtle than most examples, but Henri Sardis certainly qualifies.
  • Slashed Throat: The final fight scene sees some characters getting bloody and direct.
  • Slurpasaur: An in-Verse example: the Beast is an attack-trained lion dressed up in blade-studded barding.
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: The Beast, actually a lion in Scary Impractical Armor, somehow manages to sneak through the French woods and countryside without leaving a trace.
  • 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 at all. However, in the deleted scenes, the first fight segment (Mani vs the villagers with staffs), Fronsac tags in later, and finally the two fight together.
    • The movie actually has some fun here as it mentions a custom of Mani's people involving consuming hearts of their dead to absorb their strength and knowledge. Whether that's what happened or Fronsac was that badass all along is an exercise left to the viewer.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Oh boy... Local reactionary nobility decided to fabricate the Beast as a punishment from God, to scare both peasantry and the royal court into doing whatever they want them to do.
  • The Unreveal: It's never explicitly said what kind of animal the Beast is. All we are told is that it's the offspring of an animal that Jean-François brought back with him from Africa. Viewers only get a hint at a shot to the animal's unarmored eyes, revealing cat-like irises and gold fur. Word of God is that it's a lion.
  • 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 with the story. Also, the real Marquis d'Apcher survived the French Revolution and died in 1798.
    • Interestingly, some modern investigations have theorized that the Beast might have been a non-autochthonous animal (maybe a hyena, or even a big cat as portrayed) controlled by men with an unknown purpose. The film could therefore be more realistic than it looks.
    • Most historians consider that the Morangiès family wasn't involved in the Beast's attacks in any way.
    • There are even those who believe the beast’s killer, a man named Jean Chastel, was also the one who trained the beast in the first place which is how he was able to kill it with a legitimate silver bullet since a real silver bullet is inaccurate he’d have to have gotten real close to the animal to do the deed.
  • Weaponized Animal: The Beast. It's unspecified African predator, tooled with a scary armour and trained to attack people on command. Then it's left to roam the countryside, hunting for people and doing the biddings of its owners.
  • 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 unusual configuration (it's made from an animal vertebral column) probably help to shelter some kind of magnetic 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.
  • Wolverine Claws: The Brotherhood's mooks uses gauntlets with blades attached to the knuckles as their standard weapons.
  • 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 initial dust-up. Except La Bavarde, the woman they saved when they first arrived into town. This ends up costing Mani his life.


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