Jack Nicholson has more acting range in his facial expressions than most actors have in total. Together with Michelle Pfeiffer he star as in a campy, funny, stylish Jekyll and Hyde called Wolf.
Director Mike Nichols begins on a lonely dark road in wintry Vermont. The air is cold and misty and the full moon streams light through the trees in the forest. Will Randall (Nicholson) accidentally his a wolf and is bitten by the beast as he attempts to help the wounded animal. After the bite, Randall's calm quiescent, passive life as a senior editor at a publishing company begins to change. It all comes to an interesting creative, different ending for the two main characters. Nicholson used little makeup for his transformations. The are from within and a product of his creativity and extraordinary acting skill.
The script explores ideas of what freedom truly is. Are the streets and canyons of people in cities filled with walls and bars like a zoo? Is an office a cage and if that is so, could being an animal, like a wolf, bring greater freedom to a dull man in a dull world? The use of the Bradbury building in Los Angeles with its wrought iron styling suggests captivity for all its occupants. Randall's progression toward wolfism may be similar to the freedom that one may face if they know they are going to die. That strange freedom from what was important a short time before is exhilarating for Randall.
The dark brooking walls, streets and rooms open up as Nicholson's Will Randall travels to the rural estate of Laura Alden (Pfeiffer). She is also an outcast and the black sheep of the family who has a fondness for animals. Randall fits right in but is surprised at Alden's affection for him. She has everything that should make her happy but she has shut out her father and the new creature that Randall is metamorphosing into is extremely attractive to her. The new man and his journey begin to expand her restricted nature and they begin an exciting love affair.
With all the darkness and philosophy, Director Nichols fills in the blanks with clever black comedy. The first half of the film has more laughs than fears. The violence is limited, at least what is shown on the screen, and the bad guy, ambitious Stewart Swinton (James Spader), is dumped on regularly by Randall in the best comic scenes.
A great cast and clever scrip always works. This one twists a little at the end to make it even more interesting. It is a solid and thoughtful adult comic horror film.