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Time Out New York Project: Issue #751, February 18–February 24, 2010
Dir. Joe Johnston. 2010. R. 125mins. Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt.
Speed can be a virtue, but there’s something extremely off-putting about the way The Wolfman, Universal’s latest horror classic redux, races through its opening scenes. Certainly, we want to get to the good stuff — the agonizing transformations, the howls at the moon, the jugular-ripping gore. But that’s no reason to introduce Shakespeare-loving thespian and soon-to-be werewolf Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) in a roller-coaster montage that dispenses with his tortured history as if it were a spat-out bit of chuck.
Despite Del Toro’s understated commitment to the role, Talbot remains an afterthought in his own story. The prodigal-son persecutions he suffers at the hands of his snarling pa (Hopkins, slumming even more than usual), as well as the burgeoning love he feels for his deceased brother’s fiancée (Blunt), feel like neutered stabs at psychological torment. And when the beast finally bursts forth, the character becomes, for the most part, a digitally augmented blur — there’s no room for a performance underneath all the 0s and 1s. Only Hugo Weaving, playing Talbot’s lawman antagonist, makes a lasting impression, mainly due to a disquieting thousand-yard stare that should be accompanied by a wah-wah blaxploitation riff and a basso profundo declaration (“Awwwww shit! The Weave’s in town!”). Maybe he can face off with Neo in the sequel.—Keith Uhlich