A roaring rampage of revenge.
Making its debut in the main competition at Cannes 2014, this portmanteau movie from Argentina’s Damián Szifrón proved an odd selection; not because it lacked the quality to make such a prestigious bow – it was, in fact, one of the best on show – but because it’s stuffed to the gasping gills with macabre violence, black laughs and balls-to-the-wall vengeance. Not, then, a movie that chin-stroking critics expected between Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep and the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night, but its crowd-pleasing thrills are irresistible – Wild Tales rode those whoops all the way to an Oscar nom for Best Foreign Language Film.
Of the six tales on offer, four are excellent and one decent – a high strike rate for a compilation. Indeed, a fifth star is only missing on this review because the fifth adventure, ‘The Bill’, concerning a plutocrat’s efforts to protect his son after a hit-and-run accident, feels oddly out of place, its sombre tone and blunt socio-politics grinding everything to a temporary halt.
The other five tales, all gleefully subversive and doused in absurdity, involve a calamitous plane journey, a blood-soaked encounter in an all-night diner, explosive road rage, a demolition engineer using his particular set of skills to fight the system, and a Jewish wedding reception that plunges into outrageous splatstick when the bride discovers her beau is a cheating git.
Produced by Pedro Almodóvar and displaying the energy he demonstrated as Europe’s premier enfant terrible, Wild Tales plugs into the simmering rage of a country gone kaput. Mad as hell, these protagonists are not going to take it anymore, punching, shooting, burning, bombing and meat-cleavering their way to revenge on the corrupt and the complacent. In many ways, Wild Tales’ nearest antecedent is George Romero and Stephen King’s delirious EC Comics adaptation, Creepshow, only way more scabrous. Now how can you resist that?