The Wolfman

2010-02-12 10:01
The Wolfman

What it's about:

Nobleman Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro), a successful stage actor working in New York in the late 19th century, is summoned back to his ancestral home in the town of Blackmoor when his brother, Ben, vanishes after being attacked by a mysterious blood-thirsty beast. When Ben's body is later found badly mutilated, he learns from neighbouring gypsies of a werewolf that haunts the surrounding woods and is born at every full moon. Lawrence sets out to track and kill the werewolf but is bitten and infected with the lycanthropy curse.

What we thought:

Based on the classic 1941 film that starred Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi, The Wolfman comes at a great time for supernatural creatures as they maintain their hold on popular culture with their otherworldliness. And while werewolves have enjoyed a great tradition in film, this one has very little to add to the legend, trading in a procession of swift scares to keep the otherwise tedious plot ticking over.

Del Toro plays Lawrence as a lost, lonely boy in a grown man's body, still haunted by the death of his mother when he was a child and his subsequent estrangement from his father Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and younger brother, Ben. His lingering anguish has proved to be a worthy asset as he treads the boards as a Shakespearean actor in America, his adopted home.

Back in England, his father remains at the sprawling, crumbling mansion that looks like it hasn’t had a good spring clean for a few decades. At the time of his death, brother Ben was engaged to the beautiful Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) whose distressing letters call Lawrence back to his family. The werewolf attacks in the town attract the attention of Scotland Yard, who dispatch their finest, Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) to apprehend the creature.

It's not long before Lawrence comes face to face with the creature that haunts the town and is mauled, leaving him with a horrific wound and the inevitability that he too will transform into the object of his nightmares each time the full moon rises. What follows is a gory cat-and-mouse sequence, as Lawrence's alter ego rampages through the town and the residents are left in no doubt as to who is responsible for the bloodbath.

And that's where The Wolfman gets its claws clipped – the mystery and intrigue about the lycanthropy legend promised in the film's opening few minutes soon reveal themselves to be no such thing at all. Gypsy woman Maleva says that only the love of a woman will set Lawrence free from his curse and sure enough, a tame bit of sexual tension begins to develop between the wolf and Gwen. Though it's not the sweaty bodice-ripper it could have been.

For what it's worth Del Toro, gifted with a raw, animalistic magnetism, is perfect for this role and conveys Lawrence's hidden passions and damaged psyche with conviction. The barely-there lighting and moody atmospherics add to the perpetual tone of malevolence throughout, and aesthetically The Wolfman is a thing of gothic beauty.

But will it scare you? Yes, and often. Although the flood of shocks and gore come at the expense of building actual tension, leaving this werewolf movie lacking considerably in bite.

When the moon is full, the legend comes to life.

Dantex 2010/02/12 9:51 AM
Anthony Quinn?! Who the heck is that? Anthony Hopkins is in this movie; it's the little details...
sido 2010/02/15 11:48 AM
@Dantex - dod you have some spandex around your head to cut the circulation? Where do you see Anthony Quin in this article????
PRESHEN GOVENDER 2010/02/17 4:47 PM
I think the wolfman eat Dantex eyes
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