Aging publisher Will Randall uses the werewolf curse to take back control of his life!
This is truly an amazing movie, one of the finest pieces of werewolf lore I’ve ever had the great fortune to come across. It has everything: the one liners, the full werewolf transformation, the keen razor-edged senses, a love interest in the form of Michelle freaking Pfeiffer, even a climactic battle with would-be Alpha Stewart.
It seems highly unlikely that Will Randall (the forever amazing Jack Nicholson) would have this happen to him, being bitten while out on some New England road while returning from a conference, but the movie doesn’t concentrate on that. Instead, everything starts off with the bite and then we get to be witness to just how Randall is mistreated by everyone around him, and how clearly that gets turned around when the wolf begins to change him.
Randall’s wife is cheating on him, literally sleeping with the enemy; Randall’s boss Raymond Alden considers him expendable, and basically offers Randall the choice of, “no job, or a job nobody wants,” at a big party held at Alden’s house. Something good does come of it though – Randall meets Laura Alden, his boss’ daughter, who seems to fated to be his eventual mate. And then there’s Randall’s protégé, Stewart Swinton (the always-oddball James Spader), who wants Randall’s everything – his job, his wife, his new mate, even his life at the end of the movie. It’s incredibly gratifying to see that little prick get his just desserts. Who says the new would-be Alpha always runs down the current Alpha with the scars on his hide? This adaptation of the Werewolf curse clearly demonstrates this.
For the film itself, a lot of the movie is shot in beautiful slow takes, with dark colors and shadows and light used to maximum gothic transformation effect. The soundtrack and score are reminiscent of early black-and-white werewolf Lon Cheney films, almost a tribute. The setting is completely modern, there are no vampires or other Supes (that’s Supernaturals for you not-so-geeks), the world doesn’t need to be saved or anything, it’s just Randall and his world: a brilliant choice for the movie.
Somewhere in the background, when the wolf out in the wilderness bites Randall, or when Alden decides to join him, one can almost imagine the presence of the spirit Wolf simply deciding that if anyone needed this, if anyone deserved it, it was Randall. It may not be epic as far as the world is concerned, no crossing dimensions or lasting consequences for all the supernatural races, but it is epic enough to rock the boring, tense little world of Will Randall. And maybe a few ripples to those around him, especially the ones who deserve the consequences of how they treated him, too. Will Randall learns to embrace the inherent power and passion of the wolf, and use it to his advantage.
There are some rather adult themes wandering through the film, including an attempted rape scene that Will managed to stop, and plenty of cursing, but not much in the way of real violence until the third act. Even then, it’s mostly a matter of Will Randall cleaning house before his final transformation into full wolf status, which should be completely understandable – he had to pave the way for his mate, the one with the memorable eyes, she’ll come loping through the woods by the light of the full moon soon enough!