Directed by: Nikolai Lebedev | 136 minutes | action, fantasy | Actors: Aleksandr Bukharov, Oksana Akinshina, Aleksandr Domogarov, Igor Petrenko, Juozas Budraitis, Rezo Esadze, Artyom Semakin, Nina Usatova, Natalya Varley, Tatyana Lyutaeva, Anatoli Belyj, Lilian Navrozashvili, Andrei Rudenidsky, Eugenia Tvirorova, Evgeniaascova
Making a fantasy movie after “The Lord of the Rings” is a thankless job. You will always be compared to this and you will always lose this comparison. Critical people always say that you stole ingredients from that story, while that is inevitable. Because let’s face it: all pop music after the Beatles hasn’t been stolen from them, right? And if you are also made in Russia, you will soon be ignored outside your home country, as a film. And that is a shame. These things may take some time. Wait a few years and then it is all fresh again and you do not have to compete with your legendary predecessors. And of course: “Wolfhound” is not as good, just as grand and compelling and just as impressive in terms of the special effects, the locations, the music, the cast, et cetera. But the movie comes a long way. And on its own it is even a very nice film, with imaginative main characters, nice action and a romantic note that has been credibly developed.
The cinematography is also well done, as is the music. Special effects are not that exuberant, but that is not necessary for this story, the amount of monsters is kept to a minimum. Everything is in balance and clearly serves to tell an exciting fantasy story. The main character, Wolfhound himself, is portrayed by a charismatic actor with a character and head that are a great fit for his gruff role. He’s kind of like Brad Pitt with a frayed edge. With the beautiful Oksana Akinshina they have also found an excellent princess. Akinshina has come of age since her (also beautiful) role in Lukas Moodysson’s “Lilya 4-ever” five years earlier. When she undresses for Wolfhounds and asks him to have a child with her, it is hard to believe that he declines this offer. But okay, for the dramatic development it makes sense. The film is therefore not only a pleaser. No, there has been a lot of thought about the story, which develops according to a carefully thought-out plan and leaves out just enough each time to keep the tension in it. And while at first the male-female relationships may seem somewhat old-fashioned and shortsighted, this is more than made up for with the appearance of the princess (a fact that is carefully delayed until the right moment). The princess turns out not only beautiful, she also has something to offer.
The tone of the film is a bit rougher than we are used to from Hollywood. We must also remember that we are dealing here with Russians, not Americans with double standards. When headlines are made here, we will also experience it and when a village is attacked by bandits, things get rough, with innocents not being spared. It has not yet been enlarged in scents and colors, but it is clear that in Russia people are less bothered by a rating committee. In a way, the story of “Wolfhound” has a lot in common with “Conan the Barbarian” (1982), that old movie with Governor Schwarzenegger. With the difference that we are really dealing with makers who score in all areas, without it being too obvious that that is what they want to do.
Director and screenwriter Nikolai Lebedev wrote an excellent script for the book of the same name and made a very entertaining film, with skilled actors, a smooth story that is beautifully portrayed and supported by cinematic means that are used in a service. With the exception of a few moments, such as an encounter with a slightly too jolly tribe of barbarians and a slightly exaggerated ending, “Wolfhound” is a very entertaining film and an absolute must for fans.