Empire of the Wolves
(L'Empire des Loups)

french film

Empire of the Wolves (L'Empire des Loups)
Made in: France
Language: French
Director: Chris Nahon
Starring: Jean Reno, Arly Jover, Jocelyn Quivrin, Laura Morante, Philippe Bas, David Kammenos
Year: 2005

Synopsis: Wealthy Frenchwoman Anna Heymes (Arly Jover) appears to be suffering from a mysterious medical condition. She has frequent memory lapses, occasional hallucinations, and can't even remember details about her own life.

That includes forgetting important facts about her own husband, Laurent (Philippe Bas). And while working at her job at a chocolate shop, a frequent customer (David Kammenos) somehow looks familiar to Anna, but she can't remember why.

As her condition worsens, Anna secretly visits Mathilde (Laura Morante), a psychiatrist who quickly takes sympathy, and a deep scientific interest, in Anna's troubles.

At the same time, a young police detective named Paul Nerteaux (Jocelyn Quivrin) discovers the third mutilated female corpse of illegal Turkish immigrants. Suspecting the work of a serial killer, Nerteaux enlists the help of Jean-Louis Schiffer (Jean Reno), a brilliant former detective who's been kicked off the force for being an all-around troublemaker. Suspecting the Turkish Mafia, Schiffer and Nerteaux start shaking down the criminal underworld as they follow clues.

But trouble arises when their case conflicts with a top secret, anti-terrorist operation sanctioned by the federal government. The agents are after Anna, who has fled after a horrifying discovery regarding her amnesia. But somehow all these events are linked to a secret society of assassins known only as the Grey Wolves...

The Good: Well-paced and entertaining despite being over two hours long, Empire of the Wolves is a pretty solid action movie. The story is complicated, but the mystery element will definitely grab your attention. Arly Jover is a compelling protagonist, and although the part of Schiffer is a role Jean Reno could have pulled off in his sleep, he'd a lot of fun to watch nonetheless.

The whole movie has a dark but beautiful look to it, and the use of colors (especially blue and green) sets the mood effectively. For the most part, Empire of the Wolves is a clever, unpredictable, and well-executed thriller with great action and a good story.

The Bad: Maintaining a great pace and story all throughout, the movie does somewhat fall apart at the very end. Although the climactic showdown doesn't downright ruin the film, it's far-fetched, a bit implausible, and almost makes an otherwise tight narrative seem bloated.

The transition from "cop adventure" to "explosive international intrigue" makes Jean Reno and Jocelyn Quivrin look suddenly out-of-place in the final act when the bullets start flying.

Also, there are a lot of characters in this movie and sometimes it's hard to remember who's who and how Person A and Person B are related. It all seems to make sense, but while you're watching this movie you might have to draw a chart or something in order to keep up.

And finally, Laura Morante's character Mathilde is underused. With such a strong screen presence, she unfortunately disappears from the movie too soon.

Who would like this film: Empire of the Wolves stands up to any action flick produced in Hollywood these days. If you like smart plots and great action, this movie's for you. Yes, the ending's so-so, but overall it's worth watcing. Most importantly, It's more proof that international movies are a great source of fun for any film-lover, even if you're just looking for entertainment.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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