Big Bad Wolves

Year: 2014
Production Co: United Channel Movies
Director: Aharon Keshales/Navot Papushado
Writer: Aharon Keshales/Navot Papushado
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad

'Best Film of the Year' trumpets a quote from Quentin Tarantino from the DVD cover. 'Dreary, anti-septic and overwhelmingly glum,' says a New York radio critic. By the time Big Bad Wolves is over you'll be wholly on one side or the other. How much you enjoy it might depend on whether you think gallows humour belongs in a movie about child sex offenders.

Despite the grisly torture to come, the most arresting image is of the bottom of a chair in a remote wood, the feet and hand of the young, dead figure of a prepubescent girl visible in the frame with a pair of spotted knickers around her ankles. If that can ever be the jumping off point for comedy for you, enjoy.

How the story gets from there to a line like 'It might look like I'm enjoying this, and maybe I am in a way... but believe me, I'd be happy to stop breaking your fingers' is one of the accomplishments of the script. Then again, maybe there's a much deeper meta-comment in there, asking how you can laugh at one liners in a movie where two men systematically torture a suspected child rapist and murderer.

When the little girl is found brutalised and dead, three mens' lives collide. The soft-spoken teacher who loses his job even though there's no proof it was him, Dror (Rotem Keinan), the cop told to find the truth outside the bounds of the law if necessary, Micki (Lior Ashkenazi), and the father of the victim, Gidi (Tzahi Grad).

We open with the brutal beating of Dror by thugs apparently employed by Micki because of what he's suspected to have done, but when a kid hiding nearby manages to record and upload the whole thing, it blows up in the police department's face.

Micki is demoted as a result, but his captain tells him to go unofficially off the books to find out the truth. He's on the verge of snatching Dror in a public park when Gidi swoops in, overpowers the young man and stuffs him in his trunk.

Asking Micki if he wants to help get the truth out of the supposed murderer, Gidi takes them all to the remote country house where he's fortified his basement as a purpose built torture chamber. As Micki watches, increasingly horrified, the unhinged Gidi tries to get Dror to talk by inflicting the same tortures on him the police said his daughter suffered.

When Micki realises Gidi has gone too far and tries to stop it, Gidi imprisons him too, and things go from bad to absurd when Gidi's elderly father shows up to see why his son hasn't called in so long, and is recruited into the grisly sideshow as well.

There's no consistent look or tone, which makes the whole thing feel a bit too arbitrarily stuck together, and when even the script doesn't seem to know what it is, it doesn't help. There are also long stretches of little action or sense that lull you into thinking not even a movie about torture will be that bad. Then bursts of brutal and full frontal violence pull the rug decidedly from underneath you.

Maybe that's the film's biggest achievement – if you sit down to watch Saw, you know what to expect. Middle aged, middle class Israelis who wear sports blazers, leather jackets and button down shirts seem to have stumbled into this alien world from somewhere else entirely.

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