Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wolf (1994)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers, no plot twists, major reveals, or character deaths**

Living in New York City, Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) struggles to control his transformation into a werewolf after a bite from a wolf in the woods. Working as the editor-in-chief at a publishing house, Will is dealing with pressure from his boss, Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), and his deceitful and hungry apprentice, Stewart Swinton (James Spader).

Will’s wife, Charlotte (Kate Nelligan) is concerned about Will losing his job, and Will’s problems only get worse, as Will fights to contain the monster. Meanwhile, Will develops an unlikely bond with Raymond’s daughter, Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer). But Will’s newfound vitality comes at a deadly price, as the werewolf wreaks havoc throughout the city.

Jack Nicholson’s charismatic and conflicted performance is so fun to watch. At first, you get the sense Will Randall is this broken and depressed man, who’s frustrated with everyone and everything in his life. After the wolf bite, Jack transforms himself into a confident and fearless man, who’s overjoyed about finding the fountain of youth.

But Jack is able to show a believable amount of regret, confusion, and distress, because Will is terrified of the violent and dark werewolf inside of him. Two scenes stick out as good examples for the torments within Will. The first scene involves Jack panicking after Will pulls a pair of human fingers out of his pocket in the bathroom at work after an attack the night before. The second scene is Will handcuffing himself to a radiator in his hotel room. The look of fear and shame on Jack’s face is priceless, because Jack gives you the impression Will is genuinely terrified of unleashing the werewolf. Throughout his career, Jack Nicholson has done a masterful job of setting a bar of excellence for his performances, and he doesn’t disappoint here.

James Spader’s Stewart is the ideal adversary for Jack’s Will. Spader is capable of bringing legit feelings of anger out of you, as this phony and slimy backstabbing weasel, who is determined to ruin Will’s life. Pfeiffer is enjoyable as the new spark in Will’s life, and Pfeiffer shares some great chemistry with Jack. Christopher Plummer is a nice fit for the powerful and wealthy businessman, and Plummer nails the disapproving and overbearing father side of the Raymond character.

The rivalry between Will and Stewart is one of the driving forces behind Wolf. It’s funny, because you get the feeling of a meaningless little squabble at first. After the wolf bite, the rivalry snowballs into an avalanche of infidelity, constant backstabbing, and murder. Will targets Stewart’s throat, but Will has enough self-control to not cross certain lines. Stewart, on the other hand, is willing to stoop to every low imaginable to extract revenge on Will., and you can really feel the seething hatred between Will and Stewart.

You’ll see the more emotional moments in Wolf during the ups and downs in Will and Laura’s relationship. It’s funny, because Will and Laura are an unlikely pairing. Will is this miserable old man, who’s going through a mid-life crisis, and Laura is a rebellious free spirit, who dances to the beat of her own drum. And I’m happy Wolf didn’t go with the happily ever after ending. Instead, you'll see a bittersweet and refreshing ending to this bizarre and unusual romance.

Wolf doesn’t rely on tons of blood and gore. Instead, the terror comes from the idea of a werewolf terrorizing New York City. A vicious beast is unleashed in an authentic setting to devour helpless prey, and Wolf doesn’t oversaturate the story with hysterical supernatural nonsense. Wolf is an elegant werewolf flick with a passionate love story, a thrilling finale, and the perfect mischievous ending. Plus, Wolf is able to provide some great humor without a reaching a too silly point.

Rating: 9/10

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