Simply stated, Jack Nicholson is the Wolf. I believe it was mentioned in articles that it was not necessary for Nicholson to spend more than 1/2 hour in makeup to obtain his objective - Wolf - in this movie. Now I love Nicholson. He is the ultimate bad guy (and sometimes, but not often, good guy) that doesn't really seem to have to put forth any effort to obtain this goal. It just comes natural to him for some reason. Case in point, he did not require any of the usual mouth/eyebrow appliances required by someone trying to portray a Wolf - only a little additional face and body hair. Now that is scary!
In this lovely little diatribe, Nicholson plays a somewhat devil-may-care editor (Will Randall) living under the impression he is invincible in his position at his publishing firm. The firm is taken over by new blood (Christopher Plummer) and his position is passed on to his protege, Stewart Swinton (James Spader - generally always a bad guy anyway). Faced with this demotion, he is forced to view his life and world from a different angle.
In the beginning, Randall is returning to the city and looses control of his auto on a snowy road after striking a wolf. Getting out to assure himself the wolf is dead, of course the wolf attacks him and runs off. Randall goes on about his business but begins to notice changes. His sense of taste, hearing and smell are heightened. He suddenly has urges he cannot explain. He does not put the two together for quite some time. One of the major differences, he can suddenly detect the smell of another man on his wife (Kate Nelligan). Discovering this adulterous affair - bad enough in itself, but it is with Swinton - his protege!
In a fit of particularly humorous insight, Randall and Swinton are in a situation that affords Randall the opportunity to 'mark' his territory, by urinating on Swinton's shoes, something I found funny. Swinton's expression is priceless. (Sorry, but I am kinda sick, you know ha ha)
Randall, faced with these new crises in his life - demotion, adulterous wife, loss of home - becomes a little more aggressive than he had been in years and turns the entire senerio around and somehow not only sticks it to Swinton by regaining his position at the firm, but comes in with a better deal yet. In addition, seems that Plummers daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) has taken a little shine to Randall. (He does have that help me - I'm a bad boy look to him, doesn't he?) Laura is just enough of 'I don't care what daddy wants or likes' in this film - poor rich girl on the edge.
While attending a party at Plummers'/Pfeiffers' home there is a small altercation between Randall and the horses - he does have that scent of wolf on him now. Show up with a full moon and you gotta have trouble. Randalls's life has taken a real turn now, he has become the hunter, seeking his quarry in the streets of New York. Unsure of these little trysts he is making, he becomes aware that things are not what they seem when he locates a little gift in one of his pockets (I won't mention what it is, but there is blood and gore, sorry).
Discovering a kindred spirit in Laura - she is a bad girl to his bad boy - he confides his fears and she takes it upon herself to help him out with his little problem. Unfortunately, during his little scuffle with Swinton, it appears he has bitten him and now Swinton has become not only his protege but also his real protege! Randalls wife is found murdered and fingers point to Randall but he fortunately has a cute little alibi in Laura, having spent the night with her!
Approached by the police, Laura agrees to go in for her interview and runs across Swinton, now with his own set of super powers She realizes he has become part of this terrible triangle and rushes home to free Randall where she has locked him in the barn for his protection (and maybe hers?). Swinton follows and offs a few people along the way - then joins in a really good little wolf fight with Randall. Laura is required to off Swinton to protect not only herself but also Randall and Swinton turns back into human before the police arrive.
Laura, wide eyed and innocent tells the police she heard shots but knows nothing that has happened. Randall in the meantime has lopped off into the forest after bidding Laura a strange goodbye. In the end, does Laura become the wolf or does the wolf become Laura? You are sure but unsure at the same time.
Unfortunately, although based on your basic werewolf movie, this one lacks a little conviction. Perhaps my tastes have been sullied with the new and improved graphic specials flying on the screens these days (like the Matrix which I have seen 17 times and still don't get, but I'm working on it!). You want a little more outta the wolves, they don't give that wolfie of a performance. The makeup is fair to middling and the acting is a little shallow, but durnit - I just like Nicholson and Pfeiffer is never a bad look!
Other notables in the movie, Richard Jenkins as the detective trying to break this little circle up and not quite pulling it off, and David Hyde Pierce - one of the funniest men on TV - pulls off a smashingly funny part as Randalls assistant. There is just enough love and mush to pull it out of the horror genre but not enough to put it into the love genre.
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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When a mild-mannered, middle-aged book editor gets bitten by a wolf, it gives him a shot of confidence over younger colleagues, highly tuned senses and a few new lycanthropic appetites. Like a clever "New Yorker" cartoon, this urbane horror film satirizes middle age in New York's cutthroat social and business worlds.