Despite all evidence to the contrary, Gorilla Film Magazine is aware of films, television and games that are actually popular. We don’t put a lot of effort into covering that stuff, but we’re definitely aware of it. So here’s the Mainstream review of the week.
Big Bad Wolves
Release Date: 06/12/13
For any cinephile-cum-filmmaker early in his or her career, a glowing review from Hollywood’s biggest nerd turned cine-master (arguable) Quentin Tarantino could possibly be a defining point in ones career. For Israeli directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, this became reality after the pop culture puff daddy named the duos second effort Big Bad Wolves as ‘the best film of the year’.
Set in the rolling woodland hills of Israel, we are introduced to three children as they play hide and seek. With eerie slow motion cinematography reminiscent of Lars von Trier’s ethereal style in Antichrist, we know all too well that something dark is about to take place. As the game begins the children soon discover their petit, blonde-haired, friend has vanished with only a red shoe left in her place. From child play to adult brutality we shift to an interrogation between off-the-rails detective Micki (Lior Ashenazi), as they try to beat information out of a suspect with a phone book. It’s brutal and un-glorified. Something Tarantino hasn’t committed to for some time now.
After releasing the suspect, Micki is quickly thrown out on his arse after footage from the interrogation hits the net. It isn’t only his career that is thrown off but that of the suspects – a middle aged, bumbling, teacher named Dror (Rotem Keinan) after speculation arises around the school that has been abducting young girls. It isn’t long after the video hits Youtube that the body of the missing turns up, in a woodland, surrounded by sweet treats, and without a head.
From this point on the disgraced detective and the hard-boiled father of the victim Gidi (Tzahi Grad) both begin to track and harass Dror into confessing to his crimes. This is when you begin to recognise where Big Bad Wolves is heading. Echoing not only Tarantino’s early work (the police torture scene in Reservoir Dogs jumps to mind), but also the latest wave in the Korean vengeance thriller sub-genre that directors such as Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon have built their careers on.
It can be hard to enjoy a movie that takes a lot of satisfaction from intense pain inflicted on someone that the movie deems punishable. Often enough conflicting personalities get in the way. Especially when disgraced teacher Dror commits to his non-guilty position through the countless torture scenes he’s involved with begging the question what if they have the wrong guy? Can they go back only their gone through that door?
It isn’t all extreme violence, which fills out the movie, but its quirkily dark humour. As Gidi’s OAP and special ops veteran father turns up unexpectedly, only to join in on the interrogation, hilarity ensues as expected. This isn’t torture porn, but I could call it an offbeat comedy. It’s the same as what’s been plaguing the British film industry for years, the dreaded cockney-gangster movie. It only needs a bit of humour, a dash of sexism, and even more justification for violence. Do not get me wrong, Big Bag Wolves isn’t sexist, it’s just a little childlike in its humour at the cost of its morals.
The stunning beige backdrops, along with the movie’s carefree tone, are what really kept me watching Big Bad Wolves. Cinema has a way of making an overtly evil character suffer excruciating events after justifying that the bad guys should be punished. There’s little grey area in this movie. There are good and bad characters within the film’s world and their reasons for their actions are justified however I felt that the director duo took it to an extreme in order for gruesome entertainment. There’s little to chew on but with the funny dynamics between the leads, your attention will be kept for the run time.
The strongest theme that I held on to was the father-daughter/son relationships. Every named character we’re introduced to has or at least makes reference to their offspring. Whether it’s the police chief bringing his son to work on the day of a brutal case or shamed teacher attempting to make a connection with his daughter. It’s present throughout the film but makes no clear example of why. Are they trying to justify violence in the wake of tragedy? Or are they trying to show violence as a hereditary shortcoming?
In any case, Big Bad Wolves is a worthwhile take on the revenge thriller. It doesn’t have the balls that Korean revenge cinema has going for it, found in Oldboy (or the other films in Park’s The Vengeance Trilogy), or The Chaser but it is still a very well made film. The performances are very entertaining, the high production values will keep an audience entertained and despite my cynicism, Big Bad Wolves is very enjoyable. This will travel far as Korean cinema has in recent years but won’t have the long life the Korean new wave is currently undertaking.
This was written by Oliver Hunt. You can read more of his words on the Gorilla website.