Big Bad Wolves (NR)

Suspense/Thriller 110 January 17, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
The publicity campaign for Big Bad Wolves, a nasty little revenge thriller from Israeli filmmakers Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, quotes Quentin Tarantino's decree that it's the "best film of the year." But Tarantino figuratively and often literally waves his arms about a lot of things. (That's just one reason to love him.) Does Big Bad Wolves live up to his breathless accolades? Sort of. The picture is sturdily made and unapologetically, wickedly brutal: When a character's toenail meets a bad end thanks to a pair of pliers, Papushado and Keshales cut away just after, not before, that tender little protective sliver is whisked off. Why is toenail removal more excruciating than, say, watching dozens of guys being mown down by bullets? But as we wince, the filmmakers are laughing with us, not at us. There's wit and intelligence in Big Bad Wolves; maybe just not enough. Three men -- semi-crooked police detective Micki (Lior Ashkenazi, recently seen in Joseph Cedar's Footnote), suspected pedophile and murderer Dror (Rotem Keinan), and grieving father Gidi (Tzahi Grad), seeking to avenge his daughter's death — tangle in the basement of a remote house. There's some torture involved, but also lots of talking: Papushado and Keshales flirt with some potentially intriguing ideas, chief among them whether fatherhood automatically makes you a kinder and better person. Their verdict: "Well, maybe." But even though the filmmakers raise some ticklish questions, it's hard to know exactly what they're going for, beyond some mischievous, grisly thrills. At least they're skillful at delivering those.
Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Rotem Keinan, Doval'e Glickman Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado Magnolia Pictures