Big Bad Wolves
It’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino would be so quick to anoint the Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves as his favourite film of the year, because with 75% of the film’s non-stop dialogue made up of oh-so-witty tangential asides or alpha male posturing it fits in quite nicely with the worst aspects of his auteurist visions. Ultimately, Aharon Kashales and Navot Papushado’s intensely overhyped revenge fantasy equates to nothing more than a toothless, toneless satire devoid of real laughs, thrills, or anything that remotely earns the right to be depressing or funny.
A disgraced police officer (Lior Ashkenazi) is pulled from a child abduction case after the girl is found beheaded following a video showing the officer beating information out of the prime suspect (Rotam Keinan) getting uploaded to the internet. The officer never gives up, still stalking the now jobless school teacher, but both are kidnapped and drawn into a torturous revenge plot and search for answers by the dead girl’s father (Tzahi Grad).
There’s nothing here to recommend outside of some unilaterally fine performances from the three leads, all of whom are doing what they can. The fault is ultimately in the material. It would be fine that none of the three guys are likeable if Kashales and Papushado weren’t playing so overly coy about everything. Not once are the actual dynamics or evidence against the accused in the crime ever brought up, but the writing team will go out of its way to include a three minute scene where the father reads back the gory details to the possible culprit before breaking some fingers.
It’s indicative of the whole film, which really wants to be a political satire about how revenge trumps the desire for truth (replete with, I shit you not, an Arab character used as a convenient plot device), but it has no concept of wit or style. It gets off relentlessly on blow torching and toe nail ripping torture, but there’s never a sense of immediacy to any of it. Combine that with a snarky sense of humour and an overbearing orchestral score that would make John Williams snicker, and you get a product that feels like the highest and most unwelcome form of douchy pretension. It’s not fun, or even all that shocking, leading to a (sadly always foreseeable) conclusion that thinks it’s going out on a low note, but is so incompetently managed that it registers as a complete null set. It’s a major disappointment and one of the most overhyped films in recent memory. (Andrew Parker)