BIG BAD WOLVES

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MOVIE REVIEW

Big Bad Wolves
United Channel Movies, Israel 
110 Min
2.35:1
UK Release: TBA for 2014 by Metronome Distribution

DIR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
PROD Tami Leon, Chilik Michaeli, Avraham Pirchi
SCR Navot Papushado, Aharon Keshales
DP Giora Bejach
CAST Lior Ashkenazi, Tzachi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy

Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as the best film of the year, so far, at Busan international film festival, it’s easy to see why with the flair, punch and shock value that Big Bad Wolves brings to the table.

The film is, ultimately, a black comedy that takes you headfirst into the rather corrupt underworld of the Israeli police. However, it is also a spin on the horror film with torture scenes designed to make your jaw drop one minute, and the next, to laugh out loud. This is by no means a new experience, but there is something fresh about the way Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales (the directors) combine horror and comedy. The horror itself, is not funny, it is overwhelmingly shocking, but it is constantly being switched on and off with unforeseen interruptions of almost burlesque value. We are bounced back and forth in our seats.

The story is quite straightforward: A reckless cop, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi), and a missing girls irate father, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), are drawn to the attention of Dror (Rotem Keinan) who they relentlessly believe is guilty of raping and beheading the girl. The pair duo up and take things into their own hands in order to find a way to extract the truth from Dror. It is the classic set-up for an acrimonious torture scene.

It is within this torture-ology that the film swims in the murky waters of good vs. evil where perspective is the only thing separating the two. You are left constantly trying to guess what the characters will do next, which keeps us tied right to the edge of our seats. This tense atmosphere infuses an air of moral superiority into the narrative. You can’t help wondering, surely there is a better way to go about this? There is also a comical play-off between the local Jews and Arab communities – a statement of change and novel friendship between the two.

The only thing lacking for me in the film was the absence of any real character development. Okay, it is not entirely necessary for the script to work as our squirming and laughing out loud soon sidetracks us. Also, part of the reason this film is so impulsive lies in the lack of back-story. However, there is also nothing to explain why Miki and Gidi are so focused on Dror, the man they are targeting as the killer. Towards the beginning, there is simply an anonymous throwaway line regarding someone alleging to have seen Dror with the child.

Big Bad Wolves is, nevertheless, beautifully crafted, from its apprehensive and muted prologue to sinisterly lit forest scenes and pronounced, sweeping camera shots of the basement corridors and walls. The film is innovative in nearly all respects, it is brimming with the unusual and it boasts a brilliant genre fare. Not since Park Chan-wook’s pictures has a director managed to maintain such a light tone whilst depicting a deeply troubling subject matter.

4 stars

Watch the trailer below:

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TAKEN PRISONER

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You will be drained of all your emotions and left stumbling out into the night after two and a half hours of heartache and tension.

The beautiful, ominously tinted lens of cinematographer Roger Deakins will send you through rainstorms and in and out of every dark corner, wooded land and basement of the working-class Pennsylvania suburbs. This sinister mood is reflected in Keller Dover’s desperate state of ruthless apprehension to find the two missing girls. Hugh Jackman is electric in his portrayal of Keller, the survivalist who is strung on vehemence and religion. Instantly, Denis Villeneuve is dispensing a truckload of ethical themes for the audience to contend with. How extreme can one act in order find their daughter?

Although the film runs for two and a half hours, all the actors are perfect throughout. There doesn’t appear to be a wasted frame with first rate editing from Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach (editors of many recent Clint Eastwood movies). Jake Gyllenhaal is an extremely talented actor and a perfect cast for Detective Loki; he is trying to stay an honorable detective without getting his hands too dirty. Keller, however, has other plans and isn’t prepared to hang around for Loki and his team. Loki and Keller are a picture-perfect match for solving a case, but it proves too challenging to be anything but quarrelsome. Yet, it is obvious that these two characters, in any other situation, would magnetise like best buddies.

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The screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski (writer of Contraband) is constantly forcing you to ask questions that don’t have answers. It is the thriller genre doing what it does best. The title Prisoners is thought provoking, as it is not only the literal victims who are prisoners, but everyone involved in the situation at hand. The case is not over until the girls are found, as is always the case with crimes like this, one needs closure to move forward. Not knowing will eventually kill you. The parents are captured in this numbing light of despair; the atmosphere is so menacingly fraught upon the realization of the girls’ disappearance, that I almost felt a claustrophobic wave of air fill the room. You will become a prisoner to your seat, you need to be brave, but you will be left a more liberated individual than before.

4 stars.