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Movie Review: “Big Bad Wolves”

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  • Release Date: 1/17/2014
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Written By: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
  • Directed By: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
  • Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Doval'e Glickman, Menashe Noy, Dvir Benedek, Kais Nashif, Nati Kluger

Movie Review: “Big Bad Wolves”

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No, BIG BAD WOLVES is not some mediocre werewolf movie. BIG BAD WOLVES is a taut Israeli thriller that merits notice, similar in scope and theme to PRISONERS, which for my money, was the most terrifying movie of 2013.

BIG BAD WOLVES isn’t on that level, but it’s still a tension fueled tale of crime, playing with audience’s expectations of how far these screwed up characters will go. The answer? Further than you’d imagine.

The film opens with a game of hide and seek between children…and the credits end when the two of the children can’t find the third. Oof. You know that’s not good.

In an abandoned office building, two goons start beating on a dweeby, squirrel-y man in glasses, pressing him for information. At first, we might think it’s gang related, and that we’re looking at criminals. And in a way we are, but they’re actually cops, going beyond the line of duty and the law to pummel the information out of Dror (Rotem Keinan). Taking the lead is Micki (Lior Ashkenazi), pushing for more violence in spite of his superior officer Tsvika’s orders, and the advice of his contemporary Rami. He even steps in, slamming a phone book into the bonded and beaten face of Dror. They all believe, or at least Micki is certain, that Dror is responsible for the missing child, but have no proof, and hope to beat the truth out of him.

When we see the crime scene, when the missing girl is found, raped, defiled and beheaded, left in the woods, we understand why Micki has lost control, even if it’s still unjustified (or is it?). It’s disturbing, and makes you angry just seeing it.

But is Dror responsible? That’s the central conceit of the film. They’re forced to let Dror go, and thanks to a Youtube video going viral, both Micki and Dror are out of jobs because of it. This only gives Micki more resolve, keener to continue his investigation as a citizen, Tsvika even nudging him toward it. Dror is already doomed for more torture, without adding the extra layer that makes BIG BAD WOLVES crackle with stomach-lurching intensity: the killed daughter’s father Gidi is just as determined as Micki to find out what Dror knows.

From there, it’s a game of twisting allegiances, violence, and moral dilemmas in a situation that isn’t what it seems, populated with a fantastic acting ensemble. Is Dror, the presumed child rapist and murderer, the sane one? Is he innocent? Does it matter? BIG BAD WOLVES doesn’t pump the brakes for the entire film, but it does have a perverse and odd (I’d argue sometimes misplaced) sense of humor. Writer-director’s Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado play up the absurdity of the twisted situation, like when Gidi’s Dad arrives in the middle of an interrogation with soup made for Gidi by his worried mother. The filmmakers are showing us how %#!@ed everything is by making us laugh under such dire and warped situations, intentionally making us uncomfortable for finding anything humorous about this story. There’s nothing funny about the ending, as BIG BAD WOLVES delivers a sickening ending to this uncomfortable tale of family and what people will do to protect them.

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