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Wolf it Down – Brotherhood of the Wolf reviewed

So you’re waiting for The Two Towers to open, and you’re looking for some action and spectacle. Potter and Bond have arrived in cinemas promising to deliver, but don’t be fooled – forget those franchised phoneys and stay at home with The Brotherhood of the Wolf.

The new blockbusters represent the triumph of craft over talent. The Chamber of Secrets and Die Another Day are reliably diverting and well put together. They do exactly what it says on the tin, reassuring the consumer that even though they’ve not seen this particular film, they already know what to expect.

Which is what makes The Brotherhood of the Wolf (just out on video and DVD after its sell-out run at the IFC earlier in the year) such a triumph – you’ve no idea what to expect from an 18th-century French kung-fu anti-Enlightenment conspiracy monster movie. Think Peter Greenaway meets John Woo and you’re not even close.

Brilliantly shot, it’s stylish and playful in equal measure, swaggering across the screen completely confident in its unique vision.

Based on the true story of an unidentified beast that terrorised a remote part of pre-Revolutionary France, it follows the attempt of explorer and naturalist Fronsac and his native American companion Mani to track down the creature.

The film gleefully rips up the genre rules, but amazingly it still ends up as a coherent whole, and a ripping yarn. Amid the beauty, violence and general insanity, there’s even time to raise questions of aristocratic dissipation, environmentalism and fascistic mechanisation.

Forget Harry and James, and choose the film that’s got the best of both of them – gadgets, fights, suave heroes, chases, intrigue, spies and monsters. And frock coats.