Brotherhood of the Wolf Shows Its Fangs


Bad horror film. Bad romance film. Bad historical film. Bad action film. Wonderful fantasy film. That's really the only way I can describe Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups), a French film about a werewolf that's not a werewolf, two hunters who aren't hunters, a conspiracy that's not really a conspiracy, and a plot that's just begging to be stolen for your role-playing group. Shhhh. Don't tell your players!

You'll see little pieces from all your favorite movies in Brotherhood of the Wolf: everything from The Matrix, to Princess Mononoke, to Star Wars, to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. On the one hand, this is good reason to pan the film (and many critics have already done so), since on one level it's a tangled, often incomprehensible mish-mosh of all those other films and genres. On the other hand (for the very same reasons), the film is pretty good about borrowing only the best images to string together. It's a patchwork quilt, to be certain, but it's one you'll be comfortable and cozy with if you walk in the door expecting a fantasy film.

Since this is a new film for American audiences, and still in limited release in select markets, it would be wrong of me to rip through the entire plot like I've done with other, older films. There are some important secrets and mysteries uncovered as the film unfolds, and I have no intention of spoiling the movie for anyone who plans to go see it. And you should, indeed, see this film, particularly if you're a GameMaster who's itching to steal a good plot for use in your own game. It would be foolish to call this the best film of the year (after all, we're only a few days in at this point), but it's definitely better than most of the tripe that's come out recently. And far better than (shudder) the infamous Dungeons & Dragons movie.

First things first: this isn't a traditional D&D type fantasy by any stretch of the imagination. It's not truly fantasy at all, being based on an apparently true series of events which took place in southwestern France between 1764 and 1766. However, putting that historical setting aside, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the traditional D&D Fantasy quest: King (of France, in this case) sends some heroes/hunters to track down mythical dragon/orcs/Beast of Gevaudan and kill it/them, thus saving the town/village/city from certain doom. For that reason, as well as the presence of some overtly magical elements, I categorize it as fantasy, even though it's unlikely any other reviewer is going to do so.

If the film has to be grouped into any one category, it would have to be pushed into queue beside the many other "White Wolf" type films (which is to say, movies about vampires and werewolves that are more about dressing up and manipulating people, and less about scary fangs and drinking blood). Of course, there's plenty of gore in Brotherhood as well. Bodies fly hither and yon; blood drips, oozes and spatters; bones crunch horrifyingly as people die in just about every conceivable fashion. And yet, much like a rousing game of Dungeons & Dragons, all that gore is really just a footnote, quickly shoved aside so that the film can get to the real meat of the story. Which is, in the end, about people. It has to be; nobody knows what the heck the Beast really is, and we don't even get to see it until halfway through the movie.

However, don't let that fool you--the film's first rock 'em, sock 'em action sequence comes a whole five minutes into the movie, after Chevalier Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his American Indian blood brother Mani (Mark Dacascos) ride into town in the middle of a rainstorm, trenchcoats buttoned up over their faces like suits of armor, resembling nothing so much as anime characters brought to life. Unsurprising, really, when you consider that director Christophe Gans is an anime fan himself, having brought Crying Freeman to the big screen in 1995.

Mark Dacascos is best known to American audiences as Eric Draven in "The Crow: Stairway to Heaven" TV series (not to mention Freeman in the aforementioned Crying Freeman adaptation), and here, as Mani, he basically kicks all sorts of butt. Try to ignore the fact that he's apparently a trained martial artist, and just enjoy the way he flips around with his quarterstaff, trenchcoat billowing like a Byronesque cloak, feet stamping through puddles of muddy water as he brings doom upon whoever gets in his way. Despite some annoying Matrix-style camera trickery, the fight is well choreographed and cinematographically brilliant.

Through it all, Mani's "brother" Fronsac just sits on his horse and watches. More about that later.

Anyway, the first combat encounter ends, and the two fighters... I mean, the two blood brothers make their way into town, where they start mingling with the citizenry to hopefully uncover the mystery of the Beast. There's more brawling with Mani (including some co-ed brawling where Mani definitely doesn't pull any punches), a wolf hunt, some flirting between Fronsac and the lovely Marianne de Morangias (Emilie Dequenne), some traipsing around a brothel with a mysterious prostitute named Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), and several failed attempts to actually catch the Beast. In other words, lots of role-playing in-between frequent forays into the forest for random encounters.

At some point, the King gets fed up with all the fooling around and sends another of his men down to actually kill the Beast, at which point the conspiracies start to pile up. In the end, Fronsac and Mani end up defying orders to ride back down to uncover the mystery for themselves. This results in a whole slew of strange, unusual, sometimes annoying and occasionally brilliant revelations, including a secret Brotherhood of the Wolf (that's what the film's called, after all), an unexpected death, several apparently miraculous healings, at least a half dozen betrayals and enough mysticism to drown an elephant. It doesn't always work. When it fails, it fails stunningly, leaving you wincing. But when it works, it looks fantastic, and it's well worth the 150 minutes of your life.

As for that Beast... the hints are obvious throughout the film if you're paying attention. Try listening instead of looking and you'll figure it out. And pay attention to where it is all these hunters and adventurers are going to and coming from in their spare time.

To get back to gaming for a moment, this film is a perfect example of how to get a game right. There's a mystery, some heroes riding into town to solve it, and plenty of danger and action. There's also plenty of interesting characters to interact with, including town guards, villains, courtesans, pretty ladies and interfering priests. You've also got an undercurrent of magic throughout the entire story, which sort of bubbles along without ever being exposed for what it is. In the case of Mani, it's an American Indian spirituality that manifests itself in subtle ways, such as his ability to bond with wolves (his totem animal). In the case of other characters, such as Sylvia, the magic is much, much more hidden, appearing in the guise of unspoken incantations, strange potions and poisons, and apparent miracles which, if you think about it, needn't be that miraculous at all.

There are only two major gripes I have with the film, which also happen to illustrate typical flaws in gaming scenarios. These are minor spoilers, so avert your eyes if you don't want to know anything.

First of all, Fronsac is made out to be a scholar, taxidermist and biologist for most of the film, more like Johnny Depp's character in Sleepy Hollow than a true adventurer. He carries a pistol like everyone else, and is apparently a good shot, but for most of the film he allows Mani to do all the butt-kicking that needs to be done. Towards the end of the movie, due to circumstances which will not be discussed here, Fronsac suddenly turns into an avenging angel, Crow-like, suddenly whirling knives and taking down foes like he was Conan the Barbarian. Which is fine... but this aspect of his character wasn't at all developed in the first half of the movie, and it's a bit like your fifth level Wizard suddenly transforming into a 10th level Warrior with no explanation. It's jarring, to say the least.

The second thing that bothered me was the entirely unnecessary addition of a particular "magical" weapon at the end of the film. Throughout, the weapons were truly mundane, consisting of the expected flintlock pistols and rifles, as well as a few knives, crossbows and tomahawks. But suddenly, in the film's climactic fight scene, the bad guy whips out a sword which, well... I won't ruin it here by describing it, but let's just say that the way in which the weapon functions defies the laws of physics. Which just goes to show you that tossing in a magical weapon just for the hell of it isn't always such a good idea, even if the players are clamoring for it.

In the end, what do we have? Let's review:

1. A young hero. Fronsac, taxidermist, scientist and adventurer.

2. A damsel in distress, whom our hero has the hots for.

3. A motley band of companions. Mani is most notable, but there are a slew of other companions, including Sylvia the prostitute, Marianne herself, and another young sidekick who plays a rather important role, in the end.

4. An ancient magic. The Beast itself. But is it truly magical? That's what it's ultimately up to Fronsac and Mani to discover.

5. Wicked evil bad guys. Aside from the Beast, there's a Beast keeper and a whole big Brotherhood of the Wolf. But you knew that from reading the title of the film.

6. Unbeatable odds. Two men against all that? Not to mention a bunch of conspiracies? Even the King gives up at one point. Can they succeed?


Now, how do you work this into your own campaigns? It's a simple three step process:

1. A strange creature/monster/band of monsters is ravaging the countryside in some forgotten corner of the land. Some high-ranking official sends a hero/heroes to dispatch of it, or at least to find out what it is.

2. Once found, the monster is done away with. But it's not really. In fact, the real creature is still out there, and while the powers-that-be are happy to put the whole matter behind them, the real problem remains, and it will be up to the adventurers to decide if they can walk away from it.

3. Of course, when you go digging under rocks, you never know what's going to crawl out, and pretty soon the heroes discover that the monster they're hunting is the least of their problems. Who can they trust? Perhaps only each other. Perhaps not even that.

In all, I once again have to heartily recommend Brotherhood of the Wolf to anyone who's a fan of fantasy movies. It's definitely not a horror movie, and it's definitely not a romance, although it has elements of both those things in it. Even passing it off as an action movie seems to miss the point. The film isn't about action, it's about fantastical things happening to ordinary people, and the attempt to discover the truth behind those fantastic happenings. And that's what fantasy role-playing games are all about.

Well... that, and killing stuff.

The thing that bugged me most was that the film was so uneven. The first half was like all realistic and they didn't show the monster, and then in the second half suddenly it changes and there's this monster running around killing people. The first half was more or less a historical costume film and the second half was like all action and horror. Like Last of the Mohicans suddenly turning into Aliens. It was cool through the whole thing, but maybe they could have paced it better.

From Aeon's take of it, me thinks I'll be trudging out to a maintee showing at the theatre to watch it.

What is the deal with the guy who is controlling the beast? and how the "Beast" actually turend out to be an animal captured in Africa? And what is the deal with Mani dying and then suddenly coming back tolife? It was good until all that stuff came on!


In order:

1. What is the deal with the guy who is controlling the beast? - This is explained at the end. He trained it from a baby, and so it follows his commands.

2. How the "Beast" actually turend out to be an animal captured in Africa? Also explained at the end, and hinted at throughout the film. The guy who trained it was on safari in Africa, and brought it back with him.

3. And what is the deal with Mani dying and then suddenly coming back to life? Mani doesn't come back to life. At least, not in human form, and not as himself. His spirit works through the wolves and then through Fronsac. As for how Fronsac makes his own miraculous recovery, you have to pay attention earlier in the film to his conversations with the prostitute Sylvia. And keep your Romeo and Juliet in mind when you do. Romeo thought Juliet was dead, as did everyone else. They even placed her in a tomb. But as it turns out, she wasn't really dead. Just mostly dead.


"Opening with ferocius results in limited release was the French-language period thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf which grossed an estimated $473,000 from only 21 theaters in 13 markets. Averaging a brawny $22,523 per venue, the R-rated Universal Focus title expands into 25 markets next weekend for a total of 85-100 theaters."

actually it is possible for that weapon to exist in the end of the movie. think about it kinda like a measuring hit the button and it comes back once its all out..except there was probably a a switch or button on the sword that allowed him to make it disconnect ot become...umm limp...

A similar weapon was used in the movie City Hunter with Jackie Chan...the boss uses a baton instead but then hits a button and the thing becomes separated.

I've seen this movie (the subtitled french language release) in the UK about 6 (?) months ago and really enjoyed it - it was shown in a very limited release over here and I recomended it to many of my friends who wouldn't normally go and see a foreign language movie. I'm glad that its been given a reasonably decent review here as its nice to see that good movies in the fighting/thriller/plotted genre can be good and I really hope it does well in the States. I'm interested to get opinions on just how good the dubbing is the movie ? You don't mention Samuel le Bihan the excellent Fronsac - did anyone else think that Brendan Fraser had gone French ?Anyway a good movie and I'd certainly be interested to see the US cut.

I had been thinking about seeing this movie. Now I at least won't be expecting to be blown away by it. I still plan on going, and it sounds as though I will enjoy it.

I'm sorry guys, but this movie was sooooooo bad. I love fantasy and all the different genres that this film mixed in, but it didn't work. The plot was horrible, the dialogue droned on about things that had nothing to do with the story, the charaters were completely unlikable, the beast was unexciting, the MTV style editing was over indulgent, the fight scenes were so edited and chopped up that you couldn't see what was happening. The only thing I liked was the costume design. I like French films. I different films, so I was excited to see this one, but it outright sucked. Just because it is a very uniquely styled film, doesn't make it good. The film is 95% talking, which is not always a bad thing, but most of the time the dialogue is inane and pointless - mothing to do with the story. And where did they get this plot? I could have thought it up in 5 minutes. Oh my god, there was a secret society involved with the beast, but wait, one of the main characters is the wolf's master! I would never have guessed. If I sound bitter, I am. I want the 2 and a half hours of my life back that I wasted seeing this film. (and my $9)

Hey I told you so in a previous post, this movie sucks. We had it here during the summer. Of course there is alot of things to borrow and insert in your RP games... but to pay 9 or 10$ for it, it's not worth it IMHO.

Imagine if you had seen Beastmaster at that high a price... or Razorback (which I compared to Le Pacte des Loups before).

I wouldn't have minded renting Le Pacte des Loups, which just came out for rental here, at least you can fast forward the bad parts, or stop the VCR without bothering anyone (unlike in the theatre where it bugs the hell out of some people when you get up and leave or take a leak).

Anyhow, if I were you I'd wait for it to come out on video or DVD and rent it, you'll get more out of it this way.

And I agree with Aeon that the SWORD was completely unecessary.
By the way Nick, just because it happens in a Jacky Chan movie, doesn't mean it is realistic or even possible, remember Drunken Master... ;-)

C ya

Oh, the movie was a romp, silly and fun in some parts, scary in some parts, and an awful lot of nice flesh in some parts, male and female. If you consider it as fodder for a gaming experience, it is perhaps a tad more 'mature' than most of us play, but there's nothing there that cannot be cannibalized into something else more to taste.

What was interesting for me and my wife, we saw it for free on campus as a 'preview screening' and it felt like the movie drew the majority of the school's French populace (meaning everyone French, Moroccan, Algierian, and possibly some Swiss). They laughed at some of the things that didn't get translated, and from the way they groaned at particular parts, it seems that the movie uses cliches that aren't familiar to Americans. An interesting experience.

But, we plan on dragging friends to it, if it makes it out as a regular release on the screens here. If only to laugh when the villain whips his cloak off to show off his penis envy...

And which, apparently, the design of that particular weapon is very similar to something from the video game 'Soul Calibur', or so I have been led to believe.

This movie was a bit silly, but fun. However, can someone here please explain the Brotherhood's little red book for me?

The red book was subversive propaganda published by the Brotherhood that declared the Beast was God's punishment for the King of France's arrogance. The King had it banned (recall the conversation in the Royal Garden) as it was undermining his authority obviously, and this was also the reason Fronsac and Mani was sent to Gevaudan in the first place: To show that the King was still in control by showing the public the "corpse" of the Beast after it was hunted down.

I saw the movie and it was a visually neat adventure more than a horror film. The idea of a Catholic secret police cell going rogue was a nice meshing of the storyline, as well as a prostitute turning out to be a Papal agent.

And the fight scenes were spectacular, no questions there.

Thanks Pete. One more test. More specifically, do you recall what the red book said about religion? (the reason I'm asking is because my girlfriend and I got in a big fight over this as soon as we left the theater).

this movie sucked like shit. i cant believe it cost me 9 bucks and 2 hours of my life.

I've read a lot of commentary about plot weekness. "And where did they get this plot? I could have thought it up in 5 minutes." Well, in actuality, it's a true story. In Gévaudan, a mysterious beast killed over 100 people between 1764 and 1767. It was described essentially as it was shown in the movie. There were several claims that the beast was a wolf and several others that one or another hunter had killed the creature, as presented by the bodies of several oversized wolves. But that did not end the killings. The rumors of there being a secret society involved to discredit the monarchy was also made at the time.

To my mind, I doubt if any script writer could come up with so rich a story, with so many subtle twists and nuances. I went into the film having read about the Beast of Gévaudan in advance and was impressed by the accuracy. Sure, the Hong-Kong action was a touch out of place but Mani was a "mysterious foreigner" (and also based on a real person) and so the choreography may be excused as "theatrical license".

As to the whip-sword, it is the greatest departure from "period" weapons and I found it's inclusion jarring. Technically, it could be produced. I recall once seeing a South African device made up of finger-length steel tubes with steel segments on a cable running inside. When the base section was turned and released, the cable lined up with the joints of the outside segment the length is flexable and can be rolled up and put in a pocket. When the end section is pulled in line, the rods inside line up with the outside joints turning it into a rigid rod that was used by the police for crowd control.

But, just because it could be made doesn't mean it should be included in the film.

Te read more about the actual Beast, visit

Well, lots of mixed feelings about the film, just want to say that I loved it when I saw it in the cinema - that was at an all night horror last haloween. That's like 6 months ago - and it still isn't out on video, or even better DVD - would love to see the extras. But I can't find any info about plans for release, anyone know about it?
The one thing I hope is that it will be just as good the 2nd time I see it, and it wasn't the staying awake through 8 hours of movies that played tricks with my mind. It was the best new film to be showed as the only other new one was Jeepers Creepers Why Was There A Stupid Big Demon To Ruin The Film? So there we go.

Why someone would buy such an inane movie is beyond me, but here's the info. The movie is already available in Québec and in Europe (although only in French for VHS, I think). I don't recall seing it on DVD, but if it exists, then you'd already have it in English and Spanish.

Through the whole movie we see the square and compasses. This made it clear that this movie was about the French Free Masons. What is the deal with the ritual in the movie. Do you think that Free Masons are upset that sacred rituals were implemented in the movie and shown to the world. Am I the only Free Mason that saw the movie and made a comment. This was an excellent movie, but i just think that another fraturnity, or "a made up" fraturnity could or should have been used.


Frater, had you kept it quiet no one would have noticed. They could also have used rituals from the Martinists or Rosicrucians, but those to fraternities have always wielded less power than the Franc Massons, hence their use of said fraternity in the movie.

the SWORD IS POSSIBLE. and it's not completely inaccurate either, if you take it with a grain of salt that he found it on his many travels. the problem I do have with this weapon is how he used it with he "bad arm" I guess you could say. that weapon is near impossible to wield without killing yourself...and I think it's improbable to say the least that he could have faired as well as he did with an arm he kept stapped to his side.

also to the person that didn't like dialouge that they thought had nothing to do with the main might want to watch again and maybe you'll understand more of it.
Mani doesn't use kung-foo style at all, if anything is style of fighting makes more sense to me than than in other movies. He style is and odd mix of made up, french, with little Asian twists, but you have to remember Mani and Fronsac don't stay in one place, so it's not unrealistic that they both fight in odd mixed styles.
I also noticed the free mason illusion, although I know very little about them. but did you notice the elk's head? that symbol is used everywhere...and not by the brotherhood but by those working for the pope (and some by for the king) i dunno where that's coming from.
This movie was excellent and bold, I loved it

PS> "I recall once seeing a South African device made up of finger-length steel tubes with steel segments on a cable running inside." >>Kordite

He spent a long time in africa, he probably brought back the sword at the same time he brought the LION. (yes, it's a lion if you watch closly it's becomes obvious)

Well I liked the movie sure it was a little campy in parts but that is one of it's charms in my oppinion. As for Fronsac, actually he was suppose to fight in the opening fight scene but his part in it got cut. If you rent the DVD it has several cut scenes. ALl but one I really think they should have left in as they added to the movie. But they didn't.

I've never walked out of a movie.. this is the closest I've ever come. This movie should have starred Christopher Lambert.

Personally, I loved the movie. I don't know why, it just appeals to me.

I thought it was more Call of Cthulhu than D&D. Fronsac and Mani would make excellent Cthulhu investigators. I really, really liked this movie--until the whip-sword came out. As others have said, I don't care if it's possible; it was jarringly out of place.

Another good production ruined (for me) in the last 15 minutes. Well, hey: at least Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on that sort of thing anymore.