Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado this Israeli horror thriller features Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad and Doval’e Glickman
Every year Quentin Tarantino makes lists of the best films of the year. He doesn’t just say that they’re the best films that he has seen, but the best of the best movies that were made during the year, period. Fans of Tarantino will know that the films that he recommends aren’t the ones that we generally get to know of through the Oscars. He’s made a Grindhouse movie, and he absolutely loves films that have a ton of guilty pleasure — that reflects in his work as well.
In 2013, Tarantino’s favourite film was the Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves. Having seen the film, I can confirm that Tarantino’s choice in movies is as good as his filmmaking craft.
Directed by the duo of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, Big Bad Wolves is an avalanche of dark comedy, beautifully arranged thrills, wild, unpredictable twists and a delicious helping of character dynamics. Keshales and Papushado were responsible for the terrific Rabid three years ago — it was the first horror film from Israel. In most cases the ‘first’ attempt at a genre in a country is just a clichéd product derivative of other better films, because it’s just an attempt to bring the genre to the country. Rabid, actually was a reinvention of the ‘lost in the forest’ horror genre and it was clear that the band of Keshales and Papushado would go on to make great things.
With Big Bad Wolves they finally have the budget and the freedom to go crazy, and they do just that, and at times even more. The plot at first seems pretty straightforward – a girl disappears among a rash of serial murders and kidnappings and a cop is out to nab the killer.
While most films have only this feeble plot vehicle to hinge on to, things are quite different in Big Bad Wolves. The plot is presented in just the first five minutes of the film, that too to the backdrop of the opening credits. From then on, the filmmakers turn the tables around and subvert your expectations of the whodunit. The cop (played by Lior Ashkenazi) catches someone who seems to be the killer. He tortures him during interrogation and has to eventually let him go based on the lack of evidence. Both people lose their jobs, and a third person, who actually seems more like the killer begins following them.
The filmmakers then employ a substitution game between the characters to confuse us further as to the identity of the villain. One moment you’re convinced of a character’s motivation, the next you’re bowled by what another does to take over the negative reins. There are so many twists and turns and reveals you’re left cackling at the sheer audacity of it all. Amazingly, this is a dark comedy much like Fargo, except that the good-natured friendly banter is replaced by razor sharp jokes that poke fun at racist Israelis.
While the gorgeous cinematography, the bizarreness, the comedy, the brutal violence, and the twisty thrills and the seriously great plot machinations are bonuses in themselves, the best part about the film is that there is no protagonist ‘hero’. Everyone in Big Bad Wolves is a big, bad-to-the-bone wolf. One is seemingly a child molester, one is a torture-endorsing guy looking to avenge his daughter, one is a guy endorsing the torture endorser, one is the torture endorsing father of the guy endorsing the torture. And the filmmakers lay on all these layers juxtaposed with cringe-inducing sweetness of characters surrounding the central characters. It’s hilarious as hell, and it’s certainly a must watch for anyone who likes comedy, horror, thrillers or just plain old great cinema.