An epic period French action movie complete with Gothic trimmings, martial arts scrapping and CG monsters, Brotherhood Of The Wolf has to be seen to be disbelieved. Christophe Gans takes the rule book for big-budget art-house Euro puddings and doesn't so much tear it up as feed it through a large wood chipper and then gavotte gleefully on the remains...
It may have the standard grubby peasantry, effete nobles and sweeping landscapes of yer average period epic, but Gans then bolts on every technique of the modern action film that he can lay his hands on. Slo-mo enlivens fight sequences, pounding music kicks the action up a notch and a whirling, spinning camera records it all. There may be a slight stutter about 45 minutes before the end (with plot points becoming fuzzy at much the same time), but the overall effect is so enjoyable that you can forgive that.
Chunkily good-looking leading man Samuel Le Bihan handles the talky stuff with laid-back conviction before turning into a credible action man in time for the finale. Meanwhile, Vincent Cassell excels as a menacing one-armed aristo and Monica Bellucci is sex-on-very-shapely-legs as the high-class prostitute de Fronsac dallies with.
But it's Mark Dacascos (Driven) who really leaps out at you. He may have fewer lines than Arnie in The Terminator, but after the moment he opens the action by delivering a sound and stylish ass-kicking to a bunch of soldiers, the film seems somehow empty whenever he's off screen. Forget the improbability of an American Indian being in 18th-Century France, let alone him having an in-depth knowledge of Far Eastern martial arts, and just sit back and enjoy the punch-ups. With looks, charisma, a fair degree of acting ability and a colossal degree of physical skill, it's a limb-cracking shame that this man isn't a huge star.
Period drama with punch-ups? Action movie in breeches and knee-stockings? Who cares what you call it, Brotherhood... is pigeonhole-smashing entertainment. Surely it's time that Hollywood put Crying Freeman director Gans on speed dial?