A story of survival, revenge and murder in the frozen north, Shadow of the Wolf has all the subtlety of a silent movie serial. Reportedly, at $30-plus million, the costliest Canadian production ever, this wilderness epic’s oddball international cast enacts the tragic confrontation of native Americans and encroaching whites in the Arctic, circa 1935.
As fashioned here from the much honored source novel [Yves Theriault’s Agaguk, adapted by David Milhaud], tale relates the maturation of a young Inuit Eskimo hunter (Lou Diamond Phillips) who, out of violent hatred for whites, is banished by his shaman father, impetuously kills a trader and, in company with the local beauty, forges a difficult life on the tundra. Eventually, everything comes full circle and Agaguk returns to the village to accept the mantle of maturity from his father.
Unfortunately, the film borders on the laughable throughout due to dialogue that erases the distinction between simple and simple-minded. One notable sequence has Agaguk jumping on board a speeding whale to escape his foes.
Phillips acts with a heavy seriousness that compounds the problems. As the compromised father, Japanese great Toshiro Mifune lends his imposing presence, but is obviously dubbed.