|Running Time: 2 hrs. 22 min.|
Genre: Art/Foreign, Action/Adventure and Drama
Language: French with English subtitles
Synopsis: Set in 1765 during the reign of Louis XV, a mysterious creature is laying waste to the countryside in a rural province of France, savagely killing scores of women and children. Unseen, possessed of enormous strength and a seemingly near-human intelligence, the beast has eluded capture for years. Desperate to end the growing unrest of the populace, the King sends in a renowned scientist and his Iroquois blood brother, an unconventional team whose combined methods and capabilities may finally bring the beast down.
Ok, well this is the first time in a while that I'm actually inspired to really comment favorably on a movie. I had meant to do so earlier, but I was somewhat busy this weekend. Anyways, first impression.... Wow. Just about everything about this movie was really well done. There were a couple of things that were a bit odd and maybe took away from it a little bit, but on the whole this is my new favorite action movie. IMNSHO, it's better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which has now been bumped to #2).
Just how cool can this movie be? Well if you've seen the trailer that's been playing for the last couple of weeks, you might have noticed that it's got a rather cool looking fight scene set in rain? Well that fight scene happens in the first 5 minutes and the subsequent fight scenes just get better from there... This movie didn't show you the best bits in the trailer. It saved them for the actual movie. Even though it was a mighty long movie, it didn't really feel like it. About an hour into it, the action was winding towards an apparent resolution, and I was convinced that I had seen more than enough action and plot development to fit into 2.5 hours (I was shocked when I glanced at the clock and noticed that in fact only about 1h10m had passed). What more could they do? A lot.
Let's see basic points that bear mentioning....
Basics: The lighting and the sound for the movie were very good. You never really had situations where it was too dark or too light to see what was going on and yet you could always get a good idea of what was supposed to be happening based on the way the scenes were lit. I've noticed that many movies of this type tend to be really murky and the action is hard to make out, but this movie never had that problem. The camera work was very neat. I got the impression that whoever handled it really had fun trying little things to add to the feeling of the movie (99% of the time successfully). The sound was very good, but I did feel that they over did the bass a little. Especially in the fight scenes the thumping sounds were a bit too noticeable. Perhaps this was an artistic decision or perhaps it was just the theatre I saw it in, but regardless it could have been a little better handled. Not a major problem, but in some of the longer fight scenes you might notice it (think slow techno for some parts, thump thump thump thump whack thump etc...).
Fight Scenes: It's an action movie, it should have fight scenes right? It does, lots of them and they are all shot in fairly interesting ways. The camera work might have been a tiny bit overdone, but on the whole it kept your attention and it really added to some really well executed fight scenes. They were more or less evenly split between Mani, the Iroquois, and Fronsac, the French scientist. While watching one of the later ones, I was reminded of the scene in Terminator where the T800 takes out an entire police precinct. A similar scene in this move was quite a bit better and not gratuitously violent. Mani got to do several nice "one vs many" fight scenes and I was very pleased with them. There wasn't an excessive use of weapons beyond the occasional stick and sword. This bugs me in some Hong Kong movies and I was relieved that the guns didn't play a huge role in the fights (although they were there and important in some cases). I guess I would say it was well balanced between weapons and hand to hand and it had a very healthy dose of impressive acrobatics thrown in. The scenes flowed nicely and they were almost always important to the plot in some way.
Plot: It's tempting to go out on a limb and say that the plot is very unique and unexpected but I have seen most of its elements to some degree in other movies BUT I hadn't ever seen them put together like this and I can honestly say that I was surprised at how the plot developed (especially considering the artsy nature of the movie which usually makes me wary). The resolution skirted bleak and had a nice solid (but small) happy ending thrown in. I dislike movies where the ending is just 100% bleak and this movie came close to that, but saved it in a nice non-sappy way. It didn't hold your hand through the whole thing and it was hard to be quite sure who was who. It had the production values of a major Hollywood blockbuster, but the plot was definately not mainstream Hollywood. It did go quite heavily into fantasy "please suspend disbelief" territory, but it didn't do it in any offensively unbelievable ways. Basically you could sit through the whole movie and really let yourself go along for the ride without feeling that you were asked to believe the unbelievable to an unreasonable extent.
Eye Candy:. Mani and Fronsac have a number of shirtless scenes and Mani has a very cool fight scene done in a loin cloth. Eh, I need to work out more ;). The female characters weren't really used as eye candy or in the fight scenes much so the two main female heroines where quite nice to look at and their costumes were great, but not terribly varied. In fact, the cosutming through the entire movie was brilliant. The colors, the styles, etc... it was quite fun to just sit and watch these people moving around in this world. There was a nice mix of things that you saw. Everything from fine court clothing beautiful palatial rooms to nifty leather riding gear (including two gorgeous long leather dusters... mmmmmmm) in muddy, rainy, countryside .
Hmmm.... that's alll that comes to mind at the moment. So - yeah. I love this movie. I'm going to go see it again in the near future. You should go see it as well :).