Wolfhound a.k.a. Volkodav iz roda Serykh Psov (2007): Breakdown by Kain424
Conan The Barbarian mixed with the story of Beowulf, King Arthur and Star Wars. Slave, Warrior, Savior, Bad-Ass.
If you’re from the United States, then The Lord Of The Rings is about all you know of fantasy. That’s not a bad place to start, but it’s a sorry place to stop. Tolkien’s world is a fantastic expansion upon the pulp stories and themes from the writers of the 1920s and 1930s, who themselves took from ancient legends and myths mostly from Europe. Wolfhound (in Russia, Volkodav) is a lot like the telling of one of these ancient myths. If you know of Beowulf or the story of Jason and the Argonauts, this film will have that familiar feel.
The movie didn’t start off to a great start for me, due to the obvious parallels to Conan The Barbarian, but it soon developed its own identity. The main character is the son of a blacksmith, who’s village is raided and destroyed for the want of its swords. The boy is then shackled and thrown into a life of slavery. Other than the fact that our protagonist grows to be a warrior, the resemblances pretty much end there. Except for Oksana Akinshina’s character, who has a plot similar to Olivia d’Abo’s in Conan The Destroyer.
Wolfhound combines this ancient style with a more modern film making approach, most resembling Peter Jackson’s film versions of The Lord Of The Rings. The movie is pastiche, but more hodge-podge than imitation. My knowledge of Russian folklore is lacking (and I have never watched the film’s prequel series Molody Volkodav, which translates to Young Wolfhound), so I will assume that Wolfhound is an original story meant to mimic the feel of a legend. It accomplishes this fantastically, giving off a sense of true, peagan tradition.
What is most astounding to me is that Wolfhound keeps its own identity, even amongst obvious Western influence. There is no mistaking this movie for anything but an East European film. The look, message, mythos, and music are all signature of the culture in which it was produced. And I love it. The movie does, at times, feel like it’s going out of its way to show us that Russia isn’t all just a cold and miserable place like it’s been made out to be, but I dug that, too.
Wolfhound is not really a straight-up Action film, but a striking fantasy flick of the highest order. I definitely recommend it to you.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Aleksandr Bukharov is Volkodav
Volkodav is a hero in the tradition of Beowulf, but quite a bit less mercenary. He looks like an anti-hero, but the guy is the most kind and honorable hero I’ve seen in years. Mind you, this doesn’t keep him from being a bad-ass. He cuts through his foes like they’re nothing, utilizing both spears and swords with equal skill. He has magic powder, that sparks fire and he also has a big-ass bat for a pet, Beastmaster-style.
Oh, and check out the Epic Moment section for something even more awesome.
[THE BODY COUNT: 100+]
I actually lost count after several dozen people fell to their deaths from a giant stone bridge. But before that, we were looking at upwards of a hundred people killed onscreen. Most of them are sword/sharp object deaths, but there are some choking deaths, hammer kills, and mystical fog forces taking people out.
To be fair, Wolfhound isn’t all that gory, utilizing a combination of CGI blood and real FX. There are plenty of kills happening just out of view, and a couple people are rescued from their promising demises by fire-magic.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
The film’s douche-bag character, Luchezar. He gets, without giving too much away, what I like to call an Indiana Jones death. Just watch it.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Volkodav pretty much shows no interest in women for much of the picture. I’m going to go ahead and give it a pass this time though, because I think it has more to do with the character’s straight-arrow nature than any sort of gay lifestyle he may or may not have picked up while working the chain gangs in the mines. Plus, he is visibly distraught at having to turn down Oksana Akinshina (The Bourne Supremacy) when she propositions him. She’s engaged to another man, and Volkodav is far too honorable.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Apparently, the Russians have come a bit farther than the United States in their treatment of ladies in fantasy films. The women here are shown as strong-willed, able and eager to fight, and nearly always useful to the matter at hand. Still, that doesn’t stop ’em from showing us some titty.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
There are several great moments in this one, but nothing compares to the point when Volkodav calls upon the God of Thunder to assist him in battle.
Lightning bolts come down from the sky, and turn Volkodav’s sword in to a fucking lightsaber. I’m not kidding. It’s the most bad-ass thing ever.
“Tell your men to throw me from the road.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
You can kick destiny’s ass. Make your own luck, but be a good person.
[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are*
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
*He has a whole damn song about his exploits!