Picks and Pans Review: Wolfen
Clearly these are not your standard monster wolves. They can disappear at will. They tear out people's throats in a blink. They outwit computers. And what really drives them crazy is not secret potions, nonbelievers or even full moons but urban renewal. Yes, they are part of an ancient species who've survived modern times by hiding in big-city slums gobbling up stragglers. So they get testy when they see renovation in the South Bronx, for instance. Albert Finney, who plays a New York cop, is so impressed by this theme that he doesn't like the movie referred to as a horror feature. True, his character, in confronting the beasts, doesn't call for a bazooka or try to mollify them with dog biscuits. He instead pulverizes an architect's model of a new housing project to show his heart's in the right place. But this movie is no more about ecology than Them! was about nuclear physics. It's a slick, tense chiller with eerie visual and sound effects. There are precise, cynical performances by Finney, recent Juilliard grad Diane Venora as a psychologist cop and Broadway star Gregory Hines as a morgue technician. Director Michael (Woodstock) Wadleigh provides his first feature with a scary pace and sharp, witty dialogue. The violence, with severed limbs and heads, is excessive; there's also real footage of a python eating a rat. And one Indian character shows how close to nature he is by running around New York naked, baying at the moon. That doesn't make him a wolf, and it doesn't make this a sociopolitical treatise either. (R)
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