Movie Review - Big Bad Wolves

Movie Review - Big Bad Wolves

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Released last week in selected theaters and on VOD, Big Bad Wolves is a 2013 Israeli Thriller written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado that was the Official Selection of the Tribecca Film Festival. And Quentin Tarantino called it the best film of 2013. So naturally I had extremely high expectations. And although it lived up to some of those expectations, it left me wanting a little bit more. As the film really fails to connect on an emotional level. 

A young woman is found brutally murdered and decapitated in the woods, becoming the latest victim in a series a child murders plaguing the town. The local cop investigating the case, Miki, is convinced that his lead suspect, Dror, is guilty. He pays two large men to kidnap and beat the diminutive and awkward school teacher, hoping to elicit a confession. But when a video of the incident appears online, the officer is relieved of duty. Angry and desperate, he decides to go rogue and get the truth out of Dror. But when Gidi, the father of the latest victim, arrives, he kidnaps both of them and takes them to a remote cabin in the woods to take matters into his own hands. 

Certain aspects of the film are similar to another film released in 2013, Prisoners. Although the main narrative differs, the basic premise is the same: Taking justice into ones own hands when the law fails us. But in my opinion, Prisoners managed to explore the ethical dilemma associated with torturing another human being, without proof of guilt, in a far more effective manner. Big Bad Wolves chose instead to focus on the torture itself, and not the reasoning behind it. Which lessened the impact for me. 

The acting was good, but never achieved greatness. In fact each character seemed to only possess one emotion that never changed throughout the course of the film. And for a film that revolved around torture, I found the actual violence to be pretty tame. Perhaps I am a bit jaded after having watched some of the most extreme films ever produced, but that doesn't usually prevent me from being affected by onscreen brutality. 

There were things about the film that I enjoyed. There was a sense of humor in some of the dialogue that was well engineered to alleviate some of the tension. And there were a few really nice surprises to be had. Most notably Doval'e Glickman as Yoram, Gidi's father, who turns in the best performance in the film. And the reveal at the end of the film that gives us the answer we have been waiting for all along is haunting. 

If it weren't for the fact that Prisoners had covered the same ground as Big Bad Wolves within only a few months of one another, but with a much greater emotional impact, this might have gotten a better grade from me. But for all it's successes, this film has quite a few areas where it fails to connect. Recommended, but wait for it to be streaming on Netflix. Cheers.  

Grade: B-.

- Leo Francis