Big Bad Wolves (2013)


In Israel, a series of child killings pulls together three very different men; Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the vengeful father of the latest victim, renegade police detective Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) and Dror (Rotem Keinan), a mild-mannered religious studies teacher who is the main suspect in the crime.

Holed up in the basement of a remote cabin, the men engage in a life-or-death battle of wills Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s follow-up to their thrilling debut Rabies draws heavily on recognisable Korean cinematic tropes of torture and revenge, but successfully translates them into the Israeli experience. While this is not a film specifically about Israel, it says much about life in the country with its tense environment of paranoia, violence and vigilante justice.

It’s surprising—particularly given its premise—that there is comedy amidst the darkness; the arrival of Gidi’s father interrupting his torturous plans, the bumbling efforts of the police force, etc., are all played for laughs. While this may make for uncomfortable viewing—it can be hard to reconcile this light-hearted tone with the cruelty unfolding on screen—it effectively speaks to the duality of everyday Israeli life; that need to keep smiling even when faced with the most brutal of circumstances.

With Big Bad Wolves, Keshales and Papushado have made the film they want to; not the film that they were perhaps expected. And the result is a beautifully crafted, morally ambiguous fairy tale for the modern age, from two refreshing new voices in Israeli cinema.

4 stars

UK Release Date: December 6, 2013