Review: Big Bad Wolves
PLOT: After a series of murders and a recent disappearance of a little girl an Israeli officer finds that he must pursue the suspect outside of the law. Questions of guilt and the pursuit of justice and revenge get complicated when the father of the missing girl gets involved in this dangerous game of life and death.
There is something deeply disturbing at the heart of BIG BAD WOLVES and I mean that in the best possible way. The thriller features a razor sharp comedic edge that maneuvers its way through this revenge fueled tale. While this Israeli offering is slightly similar in structure to the recent PRISONERS, it masks its bleak nature with subversive black humor. In many ways, this is a much darker film than the Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal starrer thanks to its brutal nature and the heinous crimes involved. Thankfully, the filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado present this horrendous fable with energy and suspense creating an intriguing nightmare that will keep you guessing from the very first scene.
It all begins with three children playing hide and go seek. Unfortunately for one, she is not found by her two friends or anybody else for that matter. An investigation begins and quickly we are introduced to the prime suspect Dror (Rotem Keinan), an unassuming religious studies teacher who was witnessed at the scene of the crime. After overzealous officers Micki and Rami (Lior Ashkenazi and Menashe Noy) “interrogate” the man illegally with the help of a couple of thugs, Dror is set free. This leads to a temporary suspension for Rami who begins his own off-duty investigation and follows Dror. Soon, both the officer and the suspect are faced with another player involved in this twisted game, Yoram (Doval’e Glickman) who is the father of the missing girl.
There is a disarming charm in this morbid story the way Keshales and Papushado present even the more graphic images. Torture can be tricky in a film like this, yet the balance between the humor and drama works. It would be easy to sway the audience as to whom the real wolf is, but this is not so clear. This is a smart script – written by Keshales and Papushado as well – that manages to create a tense atmosphere without dragging the audience down to its grim depth. Even still the cleverly placed moments of fun aren’t forced or out of place, but they certainly do make the horror all the more bearable. Only briefly does the absurdity wear its welcome.
For much of WOLVES running time, the focus remains on the three main characters Rami, Dror and Yoram. The actors are all quite impressive not only in regards to the serious nature but the comedic elements as well. A phone call from “Mom” to Yoram during an inopportune time works better than it should thanks not only Glickman but the two others as well. The three actors have an immensely strong connection and the more we learn about each, the more layers are revealed. Much of the film takes place in a single location so the mid-section is a reminder that this could have easily been done on-stage. This is not necessarily a complaint as the cast could very well have made this work either way.
Not one character here is simply black and white which makes for a riveting discussion of revenge. The three men each have a monstrous side that comes out in a different but equally effective way. However it is Noy as Rami with the most fascinating arc. As the vigilante cop he clearly has a very perverse side conveniently tucked away. As the film progressed I found myself rooting for this anti-hero of sorts. Every single character has something to hide, a deep and dark secret that fuel them throughout. Each layer uncovered helps build the characters in an unexpected way.
Thankfully the cast isn’t the only thing that works. Visually this is a striking feature with a strong cinematic approach. While I had mentioned this could have been recreated on-stage, the look of the film is just as impressive as the script and the performances. When it comes to the violence it can be gruesome, yet the directors give you just enough to think you are seeing more bloodshed than you actually do. This helps make the scenes of torture nerve-wracking and not because of what is on-screen. BIG BAD WOLVES is an intriguing look at revenge and what drives someone to take the law into their own hands. It is a smart and suspenseful portrayal of the evil that may be hidden deep within us all.