Israel | 2013 | Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navor Papushado
Logline: A rogue detective, a desperate father, and a meek schoolteacher find themselves caught up in the cruel machinations of a child serial killer.
It’s rare for an Israeli movie to make an impact in the realm of hardened genre lovers, but Big Bad Wolves does more than bark loudly, it has a nasty bite too. This is classic crime fare, told with an emphasis on character and situation. It’s not an action flick, but there’s some solid ultraviolence. It’s not a complex plot, but there are some neat diversions. It’s not a comedy, but there are some perversely funny lines of dialogue. Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?!
I can see why Tarantino was jumping up and down about this one; it’s got some of his style splashed on it, especially Reservoir Dogs. It is dialogue-driven, mostly interior-set, with strong performances, and some memorable moments; for example the torturing. Oh yes, the finger-snapping, toenail-pulling, chest-blowtorching is guaranteed to make the most hardened viewer wince. The kind of over-the-top violence that immediately gives the movie cult appeal.
Micki (Lior Ashkenazi, looking, amusingly, like Steve Carroll) is a police detective on a vigilante hunt for the serial killer responsible for the heinous murder of a young girl (stuffed full of drugged candy, then maimed, raped, and beheaded!). The suspect, Dror (Rotem Keinan), a mild-mannered religious studies schoolteacher, has been arrested, but released due to lack of evidence.
Micki, after being suspended from the case, kidnaps Dror with the intent of extracting a confession. The father of the murdered girl, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), takes matters into his own hands and, assisted by Micki, tortures Dror in the basement of an abandoned house. Dror insists on his innocence, despite his horrific injuries. Then Gidi’s father (Doval’e Glickman) arrives and the situation begins to get even messier.
With Tarantino’s quote – “The best film of the year!” - emblazoned across the already striking poster art with its own succinct tagline – Some Men Are Created Evil – Big Bad Wolves promises big, bad things. But the first half of the movie is strangely wayward and mostly underwhelming. It’s the intense second half where the movie really comes into its own, and where the rich Tarantino-esque flavours come blistering to the fore.
This is one of those movies where it could’ve gone either way. The “twist” revelation right at the end is both satisfying, yet, oddly underwhelming. It’s a resolution that makes sense, but raises a couple of itchy questions.
I wasn’t wholly convinced by the extreme violence either. It packs a punch, but its consequences are far from realistic. Had the writer/directors paid more attention to that level of realism, and tightened the first act, the movie would’ve been very impressive indeed. That said Big Bad Wolves is solid Saturday night fare for the discerning beer and pizza crowd.
Big Bad Wolves is released in Australia by Transmission Films.