Wolfen opens with a rich couple in the back of a limo, dressed up in snazzy clothes and doing cocaine. They tell their driver to pull over. Are they already at their party? Nope, they are in the middle of a warehouse district that has obviously been abandoned after an industrial collapse, which is basically the exact opposite of a party. Well, I'm sure that whatever business they have to attend to is very pressing. After all, there's no reason why rich people would risk becoming Batman's parents in the middle of the night in "so overrun with violent crime it'll give you a Death Wish" 1970's New York unless they absolutely had to, right? Oh, wait, they just stopped to read a plaque that commemorates New York City's first windmill? Yeah, these people deserve to be eaten by werewolves.
Cut to the next morning, where the cops are trying to piece together why there are a few dead rich people in front of an abstract sculpture in the middle of an unlivable wasteland. The main cop on the case is Dewey Wilson, and he is definitely unpleasant to look at. He's wearing baggy sweatpants and a hoodie, and he has a haircut that I can best describe as "what would happen if a Lego Man grew a mullet." It's a solid brick of curls that looks like it was airlifted from a factory onto the top of his head and I do not like it at all. However, his haircut actually isn't the least appealing part of the entire Dewey package. No, that would be the way he's carrying his paper coffee cup: he's got two fingers on the inside of the rim and his thumb on the outside, meaning that his fingers are directly in the middle of what he's drinking. And it's hot coffee, too, because you can see it steaming in the air, and you know it's full to the brim because it keeps spilling onto the ground. Dewey actually offers a sip of the morticians at the scene without bothering to mention that he's been dunking his digits where his doughnut should go, which I think is slightly more rude than murdering some rich yuppies with your teeth.
Anyway, Dewey begins to work the case, and at first he has no leads. However, a few days later the werewolves kill a few more victims, including a homeless man they eat in broad daylight in a rubble pile that's sitting in front of a broken down church. (Wolfen isn't much as a movie, but it is a damn interesting portrait of how terrible New York City was back in the good old days.) As more evidence piles up he begins to suspect that wolves and or werewolves are at work, so he goes to the zoo to do some research. There a wolf expert tells him that every Native American could talk to wolves, so he might want to see if there are any Native Americans in New York City that might have a grudge against random white people. (If Dewey ever arrests someone for these murders I am sure this extremely knowledgeable expert will be an invaluable witness at the trial.)
Our schlubby hero decides to take the zoo-worker's advice and he begins to investigate some Native American construction workers he stumbles across to see if they are secretly turning into werewolves when no one is looking. Although they deny any involvement with the murders, they do not point out that if it was possible for Native Americans to turn into supernatural killing machines the ideal time for them to do so probably would have been during the two or three hundred years when they were fighting the white man for control of the continent and not during the Carter administration when the issue was, uh, slightly more moot. However, they do tell Dewey that he's crazy and that he should leave them alone.
Unfortunately, Dewey does not leave them alone. In fact, he begins to stalk one of the construction workers named Eddie in the hopes that he will catch him in the act of transforming into a murderous beast. (We all have to have dreams, I guess.) One night Dewey sees Eddie leave a bar with his friends, but when they head right Eddie goes left towards the beach. Dewey follows after him, and he witnesses Eddie stripping naked, getting on all fours and howling at the moon. Then Eddie licks directly from a pool of stagnant water that's pooled in a puddle underneath the boardwalk floor. Finally, Eddie runs directly at Dewey, his dong flapping in the cold breeze, but instead of attacking Dewey he announces that Dewey is a stone cold racist if he thinks that Native Americans have magical powers, and he was just doing all that stuff to psych Dewey out. The first part of his story totally checks out, the second part a little less so.
It's beginning to look like there is no way in hell that Dewey is going to solve this mess, because he is not getting anywhere with his werewolf theory, which most of the other cops think is dumb. Normally I would side with the other cops, but keep in mind that these werewolves are killing people on the street in broad daylight in the heart of America's largest urban area. You would think that someone would have seen a bloody-faced wolf wandering around on a block full of brownstones and reported it to the cops but apparently that didn't happen. Can these wolves can turn invisible? Or are they really good at hiding behind fire hydrants when they are out in the open? Was New York City so rough back then that people just accepted bloodthirsty animals as another unavoidable neighborhood irritation they would have to overlook? Is there a fourth option I can't conceive of? It is anyone's guess, honestly.
Anyway, just when it seems like Dewey is up shits creek without a paddle, Eddie decides to tell him all of the secret information he would need to solve this case and wrap this movie up. (Which is awfully nice of him, since Dewey has been an absolute a-hole to him for the whole movie and never even bothered to apologize.) It appears that the Wolfen aren't actually werewolves - they are a magical breed of wolf that something something. (I couldn't really make sense of the entire explanation on the first go round and I didn't care enough to rewind.) Eddie tells Dewey that if he gives the Wolfen what they want they will go away. I think they want to own some land in Manhattan? (Hey, join the club, buddy.)
This leads us to a showdown between Dewey and the Wolfen, where Dewey leads them back to the penthouse apartment of the people who died in the first scene of the movie. (I guess he permanently has keys to their fancy-ass apartment now? This seems slightly sketchy.) You would think that the Wolfen would have trouble getting up to the penthouse of a skyscraper because their paws probably can't work an elevator, but they actually sidestep this problem by coming in through the window, which means they can fly, I guess? (I was doing a lot of guessing at this point.) Things aren't looking so good for Dewey, given that he has an eminently chewable neck and these Wolfen are only a few feet away, but then he makes a real estate deal with them and they calm down. In fact, once they get an absolutely sincere promise from a slovenly cop that there will be no more luxury developments in that part of the city the Wolfen become so satisfied that they instantly evaporate into thin air. It's too bad that hobo wasn't a realtor in his spare time - if so, he wouldn't have been mauled to death by a supernatural animal during broad daylight.
The movie seems to think that this is a happy ending, but I suspect that sooner or later the Wolfen are going to figure out that they made a deal with a guy with absolutely no power at all, and when that happens they'll probably come back and kill more random people in protest. But I suppose that's a problem for the next Dewey to solve in Wolfen 2: Everyone Who Made This Movie is Still High On An Excessive Amount of Cocaine Boogaloo.