Benicio Del Toro as…Lawrence Talbot/The Wolfman
Anthony Hopkins as…Sir John Talbot
Emily Blunt as…Gwen Conliffe
Hugo Weaving as…Abberline
When I first heard they were making a remake of the 1941 classic The Wolf Man, my feelings weren’t really strong one way or another. I have actually never seen the original film from start-to-finish and despite its high praise, have never really had any strong desire to view it either. It would probably come off as very dated and I wouldn’t want to tarnish the possible quality of a film like that. Despite no strong feelings that this remake would “destroy the original” or anything, I still walked into this film with somewhat of a doubt in my mind.
If you don’t know the plot, well it’s pretty straight-forward. Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro), a Broadway actor, returns to his ancestral homeland after his brother has been mysteriously killed (of course, we know it was by a wolf). Emily Blunt plays the brother’s widow, the great Anthony Hopkins is Talbot’s old man, and Hugo Weaving is an inspector in search of the mysterious beast.
With a film like this, I guess it could’ve gone either way. One style could have been to take an ultra-serious approach to the story and make it in the style of a macabre tale of a man wrestling with his own emotions and struggling to deal with his condition. Another way would be to “camp it up” and just deliver the film as a whiz-bang, slam-dunk, action-packed ridiculous-but-great piece of cinema. The film seems to have found its place somewhere between those two styles and somehow, it works.
Many, many times a film will try to tell a story like this in a very heavy-handed way and it ultimately tanks because of some ridiculous CGI or some terrible overacting. I don’t know why this works well though, as occasionally the film will try to handle certain topics in a more heavy-handed way (the whole back-story between father and son Talbot), but then a lot of the actual ‘wolf attack’ scenes are cheesy fun for the most part and the CGI actually enhances (yes, I know) those scenes.
The good thing about these types of big-budget monster movies is that the acting doesn’t really have to be amazing for everyone involved to pull it off. Fortunately though, the film has four very strong actors in the major roles in the form of Del Toro, Blunt, Hopkins, and Weaving. UNfortunately, they don’t all deliver a home run in their performances.
Benicio Del Toro was someone that I was behind 100% when it came to casting the title role in The Wolfman. Del Toro is a fantastic actor (if you want examples, watch Traffic or The Usual Suspects) and seems to always shine in even small roles. That’s why it was so strange that I found Del Toro’s performance somewhat underwhelming. He wasn’t terrible or anything, but he seemed to lack the intensity that his role required in order to make it really work. Emily Blunt was another performer in the film that didn’t seem to be doing as well as she usually does (she was the best thing about The Devil Wears Prada).
However, Anthony Hopkins and especially Hugo Weaving steal the show. Sir Anthony delivers one of his trademark performances just seething with quiet intensity, while Weaving delivers a unique performance, really making the inspector his own character. So with the acting working for about 50% of the main cast, you would think it would damper the film quite a bit that the two main leads were not all that great. Surprisingly, it doesn’t hurt it though thanks to, like I said earlier, the style of film not requiring that much in the way of terrific performances.
Overall, the film was good enough for a fun time at the movies with lots of blood and gore to be had and some really slick action sequences.