Wild Tales (2014)

Review #1,215

Director:  Damian Szifron
Cast:  Ricardo Darín, Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa
Plot:  Six short stories involving distressed people.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Foreign Language Film
Runtime:  122min
Rating:  M18 for violence, language and brief sexuality.
International Sales:  Film Factory

‘The Rats’
The Strongest’

Damian Szifron's international breakthrough is a film of two halves.  Which is why I'm grouping the shorts in this way.  Coincidentally, it is also the running order of the shorts.  The first three are the most entertaining, with my vote to 'The Strongest' as my personal favourite.  It is about two drivers on a lonely road who have a terrible grudge, and works effectively as a morbidly and scatologically humourous affair.  

'The Rats' puts rat poison and a diner in the spotlight, with violent results, while the prologue 'Pasternak' is a fated coincidence of cosmic proportions set in a plane.  All these are tales of revenge and hatred by folks who have reached their wits' end.  The tight pacing and narrative simplicity are why these shorts are so engaging and brilliant.

‘Little Bomb’
‘The Proposal’
‘Until Death Do Us Part’

Continuing on Szifron’s thematic pursuits, the other three shorts are interesting but not as fun as what had come before them.  The closing short ‘Until Death Do Us Part’ promises a wild and raunchy ride that is centered on a wedding that has gone awry, but it somehow overstays its welcome with protracted scenes.  

The other two shorts ‘Little Bomb’ and ‘The Proposal’ are more narrative driven and function as social commentaries on vigilantism and greed respectively.  These shorts slow down the entire film, and it feels one short too many as a result.  Wild Tales is largely uneven in the second half, despite some great individual moments.  The tales are indeed bizarre, but such is human nature in all of its badassness and cruelty that all the stories are not entirely unbelievable. 

Only his third feature, Wild Tales is not only crisp and polished, but points to an emerging filmmaker with a strong eye for what is visually cinematic.  He draws dark comedy from escalating drama or tension, as well as excellent performances from the ensemble cast.  Wild Tales promises much, but even though it doesn’t quite work as a whole, Szifron is certainly a director to watch out for, and here’s hoping he will continue making off-kilter films in Argentina.

Verdict:  Six bizarre tales – the first three are brilliant, tightly-structured and morbidly hilarious, but the last three felt overdrawn despite some great individual moments.  


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