Toronto After Dark 2013 Review: Big Bad Wolves

Still from Big Bad Wolves 2

A little girl goes missing and is found murdered and beheaded soon after. The most recent victim of a string of grizzly child murders, the latest crime pushes a rogue cop, Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) to nab the guy he is convinced must be responsible, a mild mannered teacher named Dror (Rotem Keinan). When his plan to intimidate Dror into confessing backfires and a video of his misconduct goes viral, Miki’s job and reputation are in danger. However, he’s not the only one watching Dror. The father of the latest victim, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), is also hot on his tale.

Through a series of unfortunate run-ins and coincidences, the trio find themselves trapped in a basement together, with the seemingly innocent Dror being forced to “confess” under threats of death – or worse! It’s difficult to say more about the plot without spoiling some of the film’s fun surprises, which is a point in it’s favour – it is not a predictable, paint-by-numbers thriller, by any means.

The film is also laced with a thread of the blackest-of-black comedy, relying on a plot filled with constant twists to keep viewers on their toes. Several of the film’s darkest moments are interrupted midway in order to let the story veer onto a new and highly entertaining path. At moments when it seems as though it might trudge into familiar torture-y territory, the film does manage to surprise with scenes that are a breath of fresh air.

Unfortunately, for me those fresh moments weren’t quite enough to gel together into a fully innovative narrative, and were outweighed by the tried and true elements (of torture and murder-mystery-misdirection). When I first heard about Big Bad Wolves, it was already a major buzz film on the fantastic festival circuit. That buzz has only continued to grow. Just a few days ago after a screening in Busan, Korea, Quentin Tarantino publicly declared it to be the “best film of the year“.  I have to agree that the film is cleverly written, but I found the occasional humour (dark though it is) really jarring with the otherwise extremely grim premise (of a series of grizzly child rape-murders) and content of the film itself, which includes its share of torture. I come from the Slavic people, who also love to make dark jokes about grim things, so I’m no stranger to this attitude, but something about the tone of Big Bad Wolves didn’t sit well with me, and I couldn’t figure out whether there’s an element of cultural mis-translation to that as well. On the whole, I was not as bowled over as I hoped to be, but I may also have been a victim of the film’s early hype, so audiences coming to it with fresh eyes may find more to love. 

Is Big Bad Wolves essential Toronto After Dark viewing?

Sure, why not? It’s the closing night gala, the theatre will be packed and the audience will eat it up. Plus, you’ll be “in the know” about the latest badass Israeli film that all the cool kids are talking about.

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Katarina Gligorijevic is a Toronto based writer and major movie nerd whose work has appeared in two Coach House Books anthologies, Point of View magazine, Exclaim!, and several other online and print publications. In addition to Toronto Film Scene, she maintains her own blog, and is currently working on a novel about abductions and communicating with pears, and a screenplay about a sexy werewolf.

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