Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Big Bad Wolves": Shamelessly Comparing It To Tarantino

Now Available On DVD and Blu-Ray

Like me, you probably had never heard of Big Bad Wolves.  However, as I was researching this week's DVD releases, I noticed something... there weren't any.  Except for this one Israeli flick that Quentin Tarantino proclaimed to be his favorite film of 2013.  So I thought to myself, "Alright.  I like Tarantino.  And I could use any excuse possible to put off studying for finals.  Let's give this a shot."  And you know what?  I liked this one.  I question why Tarantino thought so highly of it, for it certainly doesn't shine with polish anywhere near as brightly as any of his films.  However, I can see that Tarantino was a big influence on this film's creators, and the notes they take from him make this a worthwhile flick.

There's a murderer and pedophile out there, torturing young girls and leaving their bodies for the police to find.  However, their heads are missing.  Enter our three main characters: the teacher who everyone believes is the murderer,  though he perpetually and heartfeltedly  professes his innocence; a cop obsessed with the prospect that this teacher is, in fact, the murder, and is willing to beat a confession out of him; and the father of one of the victims, who sets up a torture chamber in the basement of his house so that he can pull the location of his daughter's head from the teacher's bloody lips. 

The majority of the runtime feels a lot like Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, relying on the interactions between these three characters in order to tell an intensely subdued thriller.  Thankfully, though, as interesting as the characters are, the film doesn't rely entirely on their dialogue.  For the first act of the film, there's actually very little explanatory dialogue, and you have to piece together the plot as you watch.  It's refreshing to see a film that expects its audience to pay attention enough to piece together its plot, and its clues are subtle and masterful in a way that make the first forty minutes a puzzling, but fulfilling, experience.  Then, when the film finally does ground itself a bit, it exposits the main plot points with finesse, using snappy dialogue and a fantastically bizarre sense of humor juxtaposed with the brutality of tortuous violence.

Unfortunately, I feel like the violence is where the film loses some of its charm.  I don't want to give away any of the details, but there are times where it felt more like a low-budget snuff flick than a Tarantino-inspired film.  I recognize that it's trying to evoke the spirit of those snuff flicks, much like Tarantino does, but the difference is that Tarantino usually uses violence in a greater story-telling context than for its own sake.   Even though the violence isn't excessive, it does feel like the purpose of the more tortuous scenes was only to show us someone suffering.  There were also a few scenes with what seemed to be an entirely superfluous character showing up on a horse and... doing nothing.  Huh.  That was weird.  For every inspired moment of directorial quirkiness, there's an uninspired element that prevents the film from achieving greatness.

I'd like to see more from directors Aharon Kashales and Navot Papushado in the future.  They have the potential to make something truly great if they can learn from their mistakes.  However, I can't say I loved this particular movie.  I liked it, but it's nothing spectacular.  If you like Quentin Tarantino, I think you'll like Big Bad Wolves.  It's obviously inspired by his work and enjoyable enough, even though it's inferior to anything it's muse has produced.

Have a favorite Tarantino movie?  Let me know in the comments below!

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