Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Foreign Flicks: Wolfhound

From Russia with mild apathy.  Today's film is an import from Russia, which would make it the first one I've technically reviewed.  Newer members probably don't know about an early segment of Stock Footage Hell covering the multiple uses of footage from a single, Russian film made in the 1960s.  This time I'm talking about an actual, complete film that somehow got imported.  Given the background of this thing, I'm still a bit surprised that placed like Blockbuster carry/carried it.  It has the best reviewer comment ever on the DVD box though- 'Conan meets Lord of the Rings.'  Wow, that sounds awesome...if a bit confusing.  Allow me to explain this one.  The first part of the film is pretty much just a rip-off of Conan, while the rest is a quest across a land.  Evidently, that makes you a Tolkien story!   There's no ring, no Frodo and not even a Gollum in sight.  The plot involves a young man seeking revenge for the death of his family, only to get caught up in a bigger quest to save the world.  One thing to note here is that the character of Wolfhound is apparently a big deal over there, much in the same way we saw with Tarkan vs. the Vikings from Turkey.  This means that the film is very long, detailed and not necessarily made for a foreign market.  Oops- too late.  Get out your leash-leash as we go to pick up the...
We begin in the most serene and peaceful little village ever.  Gee, I wonder what is going to happen next.  Yeah, they die.  We awkwardly time-jump to several years later and see our hero, who looks like the singer from The Spin Doctors.  Who is he?  Why does he have a bat as a pet?  We can assume safely that this is the kid grown up, but they don't say that for awhile.  As far as the bat thing goes or what happened to him between capture and revenge, you'll have to wait for it.  How long?  90 minutes!  Before that happens, he breaks into a building full of slaves and kills some guys.  He finds a lady there and saves her, but only after lighting the place on fire and killing the guy who he was after.  The pair escape when an old man shows them a secret door, so they save him too.  The group meet up with a Princess and her entourage (sorry, no Turtle) & go along for the trip.  The film's villain- a guy in the same skull mask from Willow- attacks and uses his power, sending people flying through the air.  Yeah, I guess he has force powers or something.  He tries to kill the Princess, but Wolfhound stops him and cuts the guy's hand off.  He sees that the guy has the same tattoo as the person who killed his parents- who is named Man-Eater...seriously- so he decides to stay with her.  I hope you like being used as bait, Princess!
The middle portion of the film is a bit drawn-out and formulaic.  It breaks down to this...
* Wolfhound gets another ally.
* Wolfhound abandons his allies to go on his revenge quest.  See ya!
* Wolfhound saves the Princess from an assassination attempt.
* He finds out that the Princess is betrothed to the Son of Man-Eater.  Awkward!
* Wolfhound saves the Princess from another assassination attempt.
* The gang ends up at a town full of crazy people and they save a Witch.  Her purpose- pretty much nothing.
* The gang is attacked by evil smoke. No, really.  The Princess prays to her God and is saved by holy light.  Lazy Deus Ex Machina- check!
After a long wait, we finally find out about Wolfhound's past via flashback.  There's nothing all that interesting, save for the bit where he saves his pet bat from his prison.  That was worth the wait.  The awkward plot wrap-up begins with the Second-in-Command betraying the Princess and slipping a sleeping potion to Wolfhound.  The bad guy captures the Princess and takes her to some mountain to wake up an evil Witch lady (different one) by killing her.  Along the way, they apparently captured Wolfhound's a scene that they did not show.  Thanks for that.  Wolfhound joins forces with Son-of-Maneater & they go to save the day.  They fight the good fight, but the Witch is a giant, flying pile of rocks.  No, really.  With no hope, Wolfhound prays to his God and has his sword turned into a giant, magic flashlight that he uses to defeat the CG creature.  Weird.  He dies from his wounds, but is, um, brought back to life or something.  The movie is not good at explaining things, you know.  All is well, I guess, as Wolfhound gets the girl.  The End.
In Soviet Russia, movie confuses you!  The plot of this movie is long, strange and a bit repetitive.  They don't explain a lot of things and, when they finally do, it amounts to very little.  After 90 minutes of build-up, the only interesting addition to Wolfhound's back-story we get is that his father was killed for the sword he was making.  Just wow.  There is some good action here, but is muddled by inconsistent camera-work (i.e. Batman Begins) and questionable pacing.  Let me make this clear: this is not a bad movie.  It's a bit long, expository and impenetrable.  If you're Russian and know the lore involved here, you'll love this movie.  If you're the average movie-goer in America, you won't get what's so special about this 150 minute Import film. You may like it or you may not.  It's certainly unique though.
Next up, I cover a Thai film that features a new breed of fighters- literally.  It's little kids vs terrorists in this bizarre, Import film.  Stay tuned...

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