Wolfman Jack - 8 (excellent depiction of the corporate werewolf culture)8/10
Even in the confines of big skyscrapers, it's a dog eat dog world.
Simply put, WOLF is a class act. The director is legendary. The acting is subdued yet electrically charged. To top things off, the Hitchcock style score by Ennio Morricone draws you in from the opening credits straight to the end. WOLF is such a unique installment to the werewolf tradition that it easily bursts through the bars of any category you place it in.
Mike Nichols boasts a career that is a study in itself. After artistically defining a post-war generation with the Graduate in 1967, he has been very selective with his projects behind the camera. Twenty-seven years after the Graduate, the veteran Nichols rises to the challenge of weaving a wide range of adult themes into one coherent werewolf movie. Stylistically, the shots and cinematography featured in the movie hearken back to an adventurous 70's spirit that has been abandoned in modern film. The combination of quick and slow zooms, along with expansive cuts of open spaces make the 125 minute story both rhythmic and engrossing.
WOLF is not the conventional werewolf movie we're accustomed to seeing, as the film is meant to induce a snicker as opposed to a scream. Although the scare factor takes a marked jump towards the end, the movie isn't really a horror movie. It focuses mostly on the canine tricks of corporate power, double-crossing, and primordial carnal knowledge. In this respect, James Spader upstages Jack Nicholson and almost steals the show.
Still, there's all the good stuff that comes with werewolf movies. The curse is a contagion transmitted by a bite. Who's the monster, and what makes the monster fearsome? What happens when Jack starts to turn? How far can Mike Nichols upset our comfort level? For all those horror fans out there, the make-up team did a superb job, no doubt influenced by the disjointed transformations of the original black and white wolf-man classic.
As a telltale sign of the film's sophistication, the werewolf theme is dramatically eclipsed by the true storyline Nicholson's over-the-hill struggles in the publishing business. In the final examination, with corporate culture in mind, WOLF tends to resemble Wall Street or As Good as It Gets more than it does the Howling or American Werewolf in London. Nichols does a masterful job seamlessly weaving canine trickery into the workplace. Jack's heightened sense of smell detects his coworker's early morning Tequila. His pointed ears pick up juicy office gossip. In addition to these scenes, WOLF introduces an innovative corporate idea urination and marking of territory, something that every sensible dog does when he feels like it!
The only detractor from WOLF is the quick and dirty relationship between Pfiffer and Nicholson. Even though the film is billed as a werewolf movie, this relationship somewhat stands as a centerpiece. To be sure, the sparse exchanges between the two stars feature witty dialog with plenty of chemistry. But despite this potential, the relationship somehow rings hollow and gets trampled beneath the other story lines that are taking place.
Apparently Sharon Stone was offered the female lead but turned the role down. To some extent, I don't blame her. The development of Michelle Pfiffer's character in the movie was an open question mark.
The Pfiffer-Nicholson love story culminates in WOLF's unique ending. If you happen to catch this movie, you can frolic through the woods with Jack along to Morricone's synthesized arpeggios. Then determine for yourself whether the ending adds or detracts from the movie. It's been a quandary for me ever since I saw WOLF for the first time in 199(?).