Here’s Jack: Wolf (1994)

When you think of Jack Nicholson, what springs to mind? Is it J.J. Gittes and his nose plaster in Chinatown, or maybe his Oscar-winning turn in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. People always tend to think of Nicholson as Nicholson. Maybe that’s why his understated performance in Wolf rarely gets a mention.On a freezing night, a Volvo ploughs through the snowy reaches of Vermont with Will Randall (Nicholson) at the wheel. The building tension is palpable, broken only when the car slams into a huge wolf. Thinking the animal dead Will attempts to drag the carcass off the road. Only for the wolf to spring to life, rip at his hand, and bound away.From this moment on Will begins to change in subtle ways he cannot explain. As his life as the top editor at a New York publishing house starts to collapse, he’s re-energised and embraces the beast within.Where there is a beast, there must also be a beauty. Step forward Michelle Pfeiffer as love interest Laura Alden. The chemistry between Michelle and Jack was a given, and the age difference really works for these characters. Will Randall being a jaded career man. Laura a younger, surly, wayward heiress.Director Mike Nichols adds some striking touches, especially the slow dissolves from full moons to human eyes. Every frame is beautifully staged, filled with gnarled trees, musty shelves of books, and tables piled high with papers.The mystical idea of the demon wolf is convincingly conveyed, culminating in a dramatic, lycanthropic confrontation, and just when you think it’s all over, Wolf throws a beautiful and mysterious closing shot at you.Despite the constant criticism of “Jack being Jack” in almost every film, his performance here is surprisingly restrained. I can’t stress enough how much fun it is watching him work. However you want to define screen presence, Jack has got it, oozing out of every pore.

This post is my entry for day three of The Here’s Jack Blogathon. 

 

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “Here’s Jack: Wolf (1994)

  1. This is such an underrated movie, as you mentioned not many people speak of and what big eyes you must have had for the better viewing of Michelle Pfeiffer heh.

    I think as always, Jack Nicholson really infused into his wild territory of being someone so magnificent. It’s wonderful for not being a slapstick werewolf movie, it has heart and at alot of times was quite touching. It’s a movie I need to sniff out once again. A lovely review Paul.😊

  2. First off, happy 80th birthday to The Joker, Jack Torrence, Randle McMurphy, Melvin Udall, Col. Nathan R. Jessep, Daryl Van Horne… I absolutely love Jack Nicholson and truly enjoyed the Jack Nicholson movie marathon last weekend, with Batman, Anger Management and The Shining on the lead. The Wolf is a favorite of mine. I do find the man-beast transition effects to fit the 90’s era. Not quite refined, but still meaningful. And Michelle… well, always stunning. The perfect love interest for this werewolf.

  3. Yeah, a thoroughly undervalued werewolf movie. Love that last shot, too. 🙂

  4. I love this film so much! It’s so very underrated. Jack and Michelle work together so well, seems odd to me that they only ever worked together twice. I love how Jack behaves like a wolf even before the wolf makeup is seen. Scary and sexy, this is quite a different type of werewolf film. One of my favourite performances from Jack.

    • It is surprising Wolf is so underrated because it had cream-of-the-crop everything — Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mike Nichols, music by Ennio Morricone, special makeup effects by Rick Baker.
      I think you hit the nail on the head with this one – great chemistry between the leads, beautifully shot, plays with the idea of Nicholson’s inner beast so well…

  5. Great post 🙂 Nicholson and Pfeiffer are the standouts of this film along with the werewolf effects. Speaking of which, when it comes to great werewolf movies of the 80’s and beyond, I choose An American Werewolf in London and The Howling as the two greatest ones. Coincidentally, they both came out in 1981. Interesting isn’t it? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • It is interesting how often Hollywood throws up similar films in the same year, The Wanderers and The Warriors was a similar case a couple of years before those two great werewolf movies.
      I love An American Werewolf in London, haven’t seen The Howling. I hadn’t even realised it was written by John Sayles and directed by Joe Dante of Innerspace fame. Rick Baker was definitely the man for werewolf effects, working on those two films and Wolf as well.

  6. Paul S,

    I remember a brooding Jack here sorta similar to The Shining. My recall of the movie is sparse, I think I kept expecting more typical wolf stuff.

    RR

    • RR,

      I’ve always been partial to the werewolf. There must be something about the wild animal struggling to break through the exterior of contemporary, mild-mannered man which speaks directly to me.
      It’s nice to hear from you again. Your presence has been missed!

      Paul S

  7. Thanks for bringing this film to my blogathon, Michelle and Jack were always my favourites in the Witches of Eastwick, so it was lovely to see them paired off again. Also loved James Spader as the villain – no surprise there x Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

  8. How have I not seen this movie? It is going on high priority as of now.

  9. Until reading this, I’d never heard of the movie. Despite being a fan of James Spader! Then again I’m not a fan of the horror genre, so that could be why. However, the casting is intriguing to say the least. The picture of Michelle with those wolf colored eyes is a little disturbing. All in all it sounds like a very well executed project that I probably won’t watch because I get spooked easily enough as it is.

    • Wolf’s bark is worse than its bite. It really isn’t gory at all. Michelle makes the most of what could have been a thankless role. For “the girl,” she’s sharp and intelligent and mostly avoids the cliché of a Damsel in Distress.

  10. KG

    I watched it a long time ago. Should do it again soon

  11. I think I may have to take another look at Wolf. I’m digging your review. When I saw it I liked some of the ideas but found it too slow and boring. Maybe I was too young. Either way I like Jack in almost everything. When you’ve got a large persona and become an icon everybody thinks you’re doing you unless you go against type like in About Schmidt. I think such thinking can be shortsighted but I agree it’s nice when actors dial back their schtick for a performance.

  12. I haven’t even heard of this film before. And Christopher Plummer is in there too? Then, it is a must-watch for me.

    • Wolf has cream-of-the-crop everything — Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Plummer, music by Ennio Morricone, costumes by Ruth Graham, special effects from Rick Baker…

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