Israeli cinema doesn’t have a big international following. I’m not being mean, but it’s not exactly Hollywood when it comes to popular output. However, that may change with Big Bad Wolves. Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the film was called the best film of 2013 by none other than Quentin Tarantino and it’s clear to see what the Pulp Fiction director liked about it. It’s violent, thrilling and darkly comic – and it’s also really, really good.
Big Bad Wolves follows a police investigation into a series of child killings. The main suspect, Dror (Rotem Keinan) is a school teacher who has been freed following a severe case of police brutality. The father of the latest victim (Tzahi Grad) kidnaps Dror and tortures him as an act of revenge. He’s helped by Micki (‘Lior Ashkenazi), a cop who is convinced that the teacher is guilty. However, Micki begins to doubt Dror’s guilt the more he’s tortured.
A synopsis doesn’t do Big Bad Wolves justice. It’s a layered film that touches on so many themes that a second viewing is nearly a certainty. The film moves from comedy to horror with ease and it never feels like it isn’t cohesive. The cast keep things pitch perfect, never betraying the film’s tonal changes and it’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino is a fan – it sits well beside his own cinematic oeuvre.
Keshales and Papushado’s also wrote the script and it has many great laughs and moments of severe darkness. The duo however manage to make these sit side-by-side, throwing in some wonderful pieces of dialogue in the process. The film is also well executed on a technical level. The cinematography is rich (it features a lot of deep reds) and the eerie score adds much to the film’s atmosphere. This looks and feels like a big Hollywood production with ten times the budget,
If Big Bad Wolves has a flaw, it’s that the ending feels a touch rushed. It’s not that the ending isn’t bad (it works well for the movie), but the resolution of the story could have been given a few extra beats to help it sink-in. That’s a small crime for a film so good, but you’re allowed to be critical when a film gets this close to perfection.
As unsettling as it is enjoyable, Big Bad Wolves shows that great films can be found far (far) away from Hollywood. A unique script, great performances and deft direction make Big Bad Wolves a must for movie fans.