Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wolves: Jason Momoa Smells Fresh Blood

Evidently, werewolves can be as snobby as anyone. Sure, some humans are turned through bites, but hereditary lycanthropes look down their snouts at then. You will find a large concentration of pure-bred wolves in Lupine Ridge. It might look like hill country, but it is the Philadelphia Main Line for werewolves. It is there that Cayden Richards will go searching for answers in David Hayter’s Wolves (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Richards never knew he was adopted until he heard it on the TV news. Having discovered his parents ripped apart wolf-style after an inconvenient black-out, it is now too late for him to ask them any questions. Resigned to live as a fugitive from justice, Richards simply roams the highways, trying to keep his inner beast in check. However, a chance encounter with Wild Joe, a fellow pure-bred werewolf outcast, points him towards Lupine Ridge.

As soon as he blows into town, he seems to rub Connor, the town’s alpha-male-alpha-wolf, the wrong way. However, a wiry old farmer by the name of John Tollerman offers to take him on as a farmhand, no questions asked. Even the television reports about Richards’ previous misadventures do not seem to throw the good-hearted Tollermans. Nor does it scare off Angelina Timmons, who ought to be too young to tend the bar she inherited if she roughly as old as Richards, the high school senior-dropout. Of course, the authorities never come to Lupine Ridge, because aside from a few humans like Mrs. Tollerman, they are all werewolves.

In terms of tone, Wolves aims to be something like the lycanthropic equivalent of The Lost Boys, with hit-or-miss results. On the plus side, Jason Momoa’s Connor makes a terrific hairy heavy and Stephen McHattie has the perfect Lance Henriksen-esque weather-beaten gravitas for Tollerson. Both come into Wolves with genre cred that they only further burnish.

The problem is Lucas Till is horribly dull and awkwardly light weight as Richards. It is hard to see him as a high school quarterback—drama club president, maybe. Hayter had to notice how much verve Momoa and McHattie brought to the table (which they then proceeded to chew) and how slight Till’s presence is in contrast. Granted, dull horror movie heroes are a tradition dating back to mild David Manners in the original Dracula. However, in this case, the film depends on Richards’ fierceness, but it isn’t happening.

Despite the weak vanilla lead, there is a lot of fun stuff in Wolves. The werewolf makeup is not bad and the southern rock soundtrack nicely amplifies Momoa’s super-bad attitude. Unfortunately, too many of Till’s scenes feel like something out of Twilight instead of a werewolf movie with hair on its chest. If only there were less of him and more McHattie, but it is still kind of entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Recommended for fans of Momoa and McHattie, Wolves opens this Friday (11/14) in New York at the AMC Empire.