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Review

BIG BAD WOLVES. Excellent Tarantino-inspired thriller

Above the movie Big Bad Wolves, there is something, or rather someone, who needs to be mentioned by name immediately, because otherwise the reader will be constantly distracted…

EDITORIAL team

25 January 2024

BIG BAD WOLVES. Excellent Tarantino-inspired thriller

…, waiting for the moment when this person is mentioned, without whom the new film by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado would probably not have made such a stunning, worldwide career. Quentin Tarantino, as mentioned, declared Big Bad Wolves the film of the year 2013. Is that accurate? It’s hard to call Wolves the best picture of the past year, but it’s equally difficult not to notice that the Israeli directors draw inspiration from the work of the aforementioned mentor. As the old saying goes, the best book is the one you would write yourself. That’s why I’m not surprised by the praise from the creator of Pulp Fiction for the film of the aspiring duo. Big Bad Wolves is simply something Quentin Tarantino could have directed himself.

Somewhere at the beginning of his great career, the director said, “For a while, I had an idea in my head – a film about a heist, where the action doesn’t take place during the heist, but after it.” Reservoir Dogs was born, and Tarantino gained the audience’s favor. Big Bad Wolves is based on a similar idea. The film focuses on what happens after the fact. The narrative center of gravity from the crime itself is shifted to the perpetrator. In a typical picture of this kind, we would be dealing with actions aimed at catching the “wolf.” Here, we know the main suspect from the very beginning. He is not a cunning villain, always one step ahead of the police, but a calm teacher at the local elementary school. The whole point is that the plot is one big lynching of the suspect, in a situation where neither the viewers nor the tormentors can be one hundred percent sure of Dror’s guilt (played excellently by Rotem Keinan). The evidence is scarce, although for the father of the brutally raped and murdered girl, it is sufficient. A similar trial of the suspect can be found in Quentin Tarantino’s debut. The evidence of Mr. Orange’s guilt is equally unconvincing.

Big Bad Wolves

Keshales and Papushado know how to captivate the audience and use a variety of cinematic techniques for this purpose – from fantastic and brilliant dialogues, through the grave, atmosphere-producing music, excellent cinematography and shot compositions, to the most potent aphrodisiac of modern audiences, inevitably attracting – juicy violence. Brutality and naturalism become commonplace. Little moves us today in the cinema, and horror creators have to work hard and brainstorm to ensure that the gore flowing from the screen doesn’t roll off us like water off a duck’s back. With great amazement, I observed viewers squirming in the darkness when the helpless Dror lost another fingernail. I was shocked that in today’s times – in the era of various Hostels and Saws, you can still make the audience squirm in their seats.

Congratulations must be given to the creators of Big Bad Wolves for their mastery in using the camera. Sinister shots where we follow the protagonist are memorable. We see the back of his head – we look from the perspective of a predator, which is probably each of the wolves in the cast. The first slow-motion sequence is already attention-grabbing – during a game of hide and seek, the girl disappears.

Big Bad Wolves

Big Bad Wolves is, above all, well-written and well-played. The fairy-tale poetics that the creators constantly refer to is extremely interesting. There is a scene where the father of the murdered girl – Gidi (excellent Tzahi Grad) – reads police files to the teacher tied to the chair. “This tale was written by the Israeli police…” – he begins – “…Like in every fairy tale, the villain is the big bad wolf. Like in every fairy tale, our wolf liked surprising little girls, but the bastard wanted more. By the way, you are that wolf…”. We have a wolf, we have a girl, and we even have a hunter with a shotgun on his back. All this adds up to something like a reinterpretation of the Little Red Riding Hood story, in an uncensored version for adults. As always, the goal is to catch the wolf…

Big Bad Wolves

The characters are a big plus in Keshales and Papushado’s film. Rotem Keinan perfectly embodies the role of the teacher suspected of pedophilia. He is convincing, so until the very end, we don’t know whom to root for – the tormentors or the victim. Despite his dire situation, he maintains his composure and tries to convince his torturers that he is not the person they are looking for. Gidi, in a brilliant interpretation by Tzahi Grad, does not believe a single word of Dror and is determined to beat him to death. Gidi’s character is a tough guy who doesn’t back down from anything and fully accepts the consequences of all his decisions, while exercising absolute power over the entire situation. A great performance that will leave a lasting impression on every viewer. There is also the star of the duo’s previous film – Lior Ashkenazi, playing the role of a disgraced police officer, whose only chance at rehabilitation is to extract the truth from Dror. Dvir Benedek also deserves special praise – stealing every scene he appears in. Benedek plays the head of the Israeli police – Tsvika – a bald, fat bastard with a calm disposition.

Big Bad Wolves

The film relies on black humor, most often resulting from contrast. Policeman Miki on the rug in front of Tsvika and his little son (because it’s Take Your Kids to Work Day), the mother calling Gidi during torture, baking a cake in the breaks between one and the next nail – all of this makes the film shocking, yet not as heavy as it might seem. The humor serves its purpose excellently, neutralizing the heavy tones of Big Bad Wolves.

Taking into account the Israeli duo’s first film – Kalevet – paying homage to B-movies (similarly to Big Bad Wolves), characterized by black humor and surprising plot twists, as well as extremely interesting characters, one can risk saying that they are the successors to Quentin Tarantino in Israel. “You’re a damn thief, a plagiarist,” Sam Fuller once said to Jean-Luc Godard. “In America, it’s plagiarism. In France, it’s homage,” replied the French director. What about in Israel? Time will tell, and in the meantime… I recommend Big Bad Wolves.

Words by Milosz Drewniak

EDITORIAL team

EDITORIAL team

We're movie lovers who write for other movie lovers!

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