“Full Eclipse” offers an extremely clever premise: an elite task force of police officers who literally hunt criminals. Oh, and they happen to be werewolves to boot. Although slick and entertaining, it’s too bad “Full Eclipse” is never able to live up to its innovative concept and become a superior werewolf movie.
The movie follows Max Dire (Mario Van Peeples), a police officer whose life has become perplexing as of late. His partner is shot and grievously injured, but is soon seen chasing after crooks like Spider-man on amphetamines. Then the partner commits suicide and his home is found to be full of reference material on werewolves. How did he recover so miraculously, and why did he suddenly wish to end his life when he was considering marriage and retirement?
Max is soon approached by Detective Garou (Bruce Payne), who offers him a place on his team of renegade cops. The team, it turns out, has a secret: they inject themselves with a werewolf serum that gives them the superhuman strength needed to eradicate the bad guys. But Dire’s conscience kicks in, and he comes to oppose Garou and his methods. Unfortunately he has his work cut out for him, since Garou is an extremely old and powerful werewolf, and during a full eclipse, he’s invincible.
Bruce Payne (“Highlander: Endgame”) is masterful as Detective Garou, a seductive and evil villain with arrogance and confidence to spare. When he’s onscreen, Payne demands the attention of the audience, and you’re hard pressed to resist his performance. Payne is also the perfect adversary, the kind you’re supposed to hate, but who has the charisma to draw you in nonetheless.
The rest of the cast doesn’t perform nearly as well. Patsy Kensit (“Lethal Weapon 2”) under performs, allowing herself to be simply a love interest and feral eye candy. Even her death scene, which should be the character’s most memorable scene, is muted and easy to dismiss. Mario Van Peebles (“Ali”) is passable as an action hero, and he certainly has the physical ability to handle his part as well as the determined energy to take Garou on. The problem is that he’s dwarfed by Garou whenever they share the screen together.
The werewolf makeup by Jim Beinke is well done, making the transformed cops look like supernatural killers thirsting for blood. Beinke does an equally good job with the outfits, which seem functional and looks cool at the same time. Thanks to his efforts, the werewolves not only dress for success, but could scare even the most hardened criminals straight.
Director Anthony Hickox (“Federal Protection”) deftly mixes horror with action, melding the supernatural with what seems like outtakes from a John Woo film. His action scenes are filled with unbridled carnage and gunplay, but he never loses sight of the monster origins of the film. Hickox does everything humanly possible to make “Full Eclipse” better than it actually is. He nearly succeeds, too, and should be given a lot of credit for trying.
The problem is the script by Richard Matheson and Michael Reeves. They give us a great idea, but sabotage the effort with gaping plot holes, unresolved moral issues, and an unsatisfying ending that doesn’t fit with what has come before. It’s as if they felt the idea itself would carry the picture, and just didn’t pay attention to the script’s actual execution.
“Full Eclipse” is a good film, but it has the makings of a terrific horror/thriller. It’s a movie with great potential, but unfortunately it never bothers to live up to it. “Full Eclipse” originally debuted on cable, and the unrated version restores 4 minutes that the producers obviously felt cable viewers were too delicate too see. In the end it doesn’t matter much, except to make you wish there were just a little bit more effort put forth.
Anthony Hickox (director) / Richard Christian Matheson, Michael Reaves (screenplay)
CAST: Mario Van Peebles …. Max Dire
Patsy Kensit …. Casey Spencer
Bruce Payne …. Adam Garou
Anthony John Denison …. Jim Sheldon