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‘The Wolfman’ With Benicio Del Toro Misses By a Hair

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Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman” nearly works. The Benicio Del Toro vehicle has a strong supporting cast, a few striking visual compositions, and at least one must-see sequence, but it misses the mark as a complete film, never quite as compelling or entertaining as it could or should have been.

“The Wolfman” opens with the grisly murder of Ben Talbot by a creature of the full moonlight. His death brings his long-lost brother Lawrence (Del Toro) back from the States and into the twisted world of patriarch John (Anthony Hopkins) and across the path of Ben’s lovely fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt).

Gwen Conliffe (EMILY BLUNT) hides from an unimaginable creature in the action-horror inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, ?The Wolfman?.
Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) hides from an unimaginable creature in the action-horror inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman.
Photo credit: Universal

The townspeople are looking for answers as to how a man like Ben could be so mangled and mutilated by the light of the full moon and Lawrence gets into the investigation while also dealing with family secrets like why his mother killed herself years earlier. Lawrence has his own dark side (evidenced by some time spent in an asylum) but his issues become much worse when he’s attacked by the beast. It’s not long before Lawrence is sprouting hair in new places and wreaking havoc on everyone who he encounters.

Office Abberline (Hugo Weaving), a name that should be familiar to those interested in the history of Jack the Ripper or even just the movie “From Hell,” comes to town to solve the mystery and take down the beast. Meanwhile, John clearly hides a secret or two and Gwen finds herself drawn to Lawrence.

Blunt is effective as the damsel in distress caught between her survival instinct and her desire to keep Lawrence alive and Hopkins has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek during some of the film’s more entertaining moments. The middle act, when the film starts to build steam, is easily the strongest section of the film. In sequences like an amazing transformation in front of a panel that believes Lawrence’s problems are all in his head, it feels like the movie is working itself up for a strong finale.

Lawrence Talbot (BENICIO DEL TORO) has morphed from a human to an unimaginable creature in the action-horror inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, ?The Wolfman?.
Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) has morphed from a human to an unimaginable creature in the action-horror inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman.
Photo credit: Universal

Sadly, that doesn’t happen. The final act, which feels rushed and over-edited in the months that the film has been delayed, doesn’t click. Without giving anything away, it relies on elements of the film – family history, romance between Gwen and Lawrence – that haven’t been developed enough. We simply don’t care enough about Lawrence to be fully invested in his fate.

Del Toro doesn’t help. Perhaps there’s a longer, director’s cut version of “The Wolfman” in which his character is more fully fleshed-out but it’s almost as if the actor decided that his natural wolf-like presence needed to be toned down and he consequently comes off a little dull.

Blunt, Hopkins, Weaving, and the visual sense of the film work but the fact is that it’s stolen from its own title character - never a good thing. And even the look of the film is inconsistent with a few beautiful shots standing out against the dark palette of the rest of the film.

Considering the potential and the hype of “The Wolfman,” the fact that it’s not quite a successful action film, romance, nor horror movie has to be considered a disappointment. One could do a lot worse in this horrible season at the multiplex (you should see “The Wolfman” three times before you see the atrocious “Valentine’s Day” once) but it’s too bad that “The Wolfman” only works in comparison to the junk in the theater next door.

‘The Wolfman’ stars Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Geraldine Chaplin, and Hugo Weaving. It was written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self and directed by Joe Johnston. It opens on February 12th, 2009. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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