Mark Dacascos, Brotherhood of the Wolf

It’s not until the third scene that you realize that Brotherhood of the Wolf is heading deep into gonzo territory: Arriving in an 18th-century French province where a mysterious beast has been butchering locals, the rakish naturalist Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his silent Iroquois companion, Mani (Mark Dacascos), are set on by bandits — and fight back with kendo sticks in the finest, most frenetically edited Hong Kong fashion.

Yes, here’s the movie that last year’s limp teen action-swashbuckler ”The Musketeer” wanted to be. But it’s oh so much more: A slasher flick! A conspiracy thriller! A love story! A Merchant Ivory social critique! A floor wax! A dessert topping! By the time ”Brotherhood” arrives at the last of its many climaxes — which somehow involves incest, a Native American burial ceremony, and ”Malena”’s Monica Bellucci as an elite prostitute working as a spy for the Pope — the only genre left unplundered is the musical.

The best things here are director Christophe Gans’ aggro-kitsch visual style (when he sends his camera scudding along the topography of Bellucci’s nude body, then dissolves to a helicopter shot of mountains, you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or applaud) and the hunky martial arts expert Dacascos (star of Gans’ 1995 cult film, ”Crying Freeman”); the worst thing is the film’s 140-minute running time. But, really, this is one of those follies that go beyond pesky, bourgeois notions of ”good” and ”bad.” (It’s a major box office champ in France, ”naturellement.”) Around the time that the naturalist and the Iroquois gird for battle to a spaghetti-Western soundtrack, and the Marquis trips on ‘shrooms, and the monster is revealed to be controlled by a guy in a ”Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Leatherface mask, you realize you have no idea where on God’s green earth this thing is going next. And when was the last time that happened to you at the movies?

Brotherhood of the Wolf
  • Movie
  • 142 minutes