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.