Empire of the Wolves
THE MOVIE Mad love to the French for taking Hong Kong-flick genre recombination to a whole new level by injecting nearly absurd doses of bourgeois drama into action-flick workouts. The first half-hour of Empire of the Wolves feels like two completely different movies spliced together by a tipsy editor. Anna (Arly Jover, the bleached-blond vamp from the first Blade who looked plucked from an Eastern European discotheque at around 5 a.m.) is a posh housewife suffering from an elusive mental problem. She can’t remember her French police officer husband, Laurent (Philippe Bas), how they met, or their friends—yet she recognizes a handsome man who comes into the chocolatier where she works, and she doesn’t know why. Before consenting to a scary-sounding brain biopsy, she seeks counsel from a handsome Parisian shrink, Mathilde (Laura Morante), looking for any sort of second opinion.
Meanwhile, detective Nertaux (Joceyln Quivrin, a near-ringer for late-1960s Jean-Pierre Léaud gone butch) is investigating what he believes to be the work of a serial killer. The murder victims are all illegal Turkish women with red hair; the killer starts by crushing their feet and finishes by slicing off their lips and nose. Against his superiors’ advice, Nertaux recruits the assistance of a grizzled and disgraced cop, Schiffer (Jean Reno, sporting really unattractive sideburn-to-moustache facial hair in addition to his usual permanent five-day scruff), who has 20 years experience in the Turkish quarter.
And before you can start berating this seemingly skimpy DVD—the disc contains only the movie, subtitle and dubbed options, and previews for such straight-to-DVD fare as 8mm2 and French crime flick The Code—for wasting your time, director Chris Nahon (whose 2001 Kiss of the Dragon showcased his able skills with melodramatic B-movie action) sets these two disparate plot lines on a head-on collision course, running through increasingly more over-the-top scenarios: Paris’ Turkish mafia underbelly; extreme-right-wing Turkish nationalist terrorist cells; smack trafficking; The Manchurian Candidate-style mind-control experiments by French anti-terrorist police; a double-, triple-, and maybe even quadruple-crossing undercover operative; completely unexpected explosions of graphic violence; and the inevitable ass-whooping Frenchwoman who looks like a supermodel while running through rain-soaked streets in her underwear and a trench coat. About 10 different movies pulse through Empire, five or six too many, but they sprint by at such a brisk clip you never have time to get bored with any single one. Plus, this is a French movie, so the whole thing is shot as if it were a high-end lingerie commercial. Empire of the Wolves leaves sense behind at the half-hour mark; you can jettison disbelief before you even press play.