Movie Review - Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

Diego Gentile (left) and Erica Rivas
in 'Wild Tales' (Relatos salvajes)
This movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It's from Argentina, and Argentina's version of the Oscars gave this movie ten awards, including Best Film. Argentina's Academy also nominated the movie for an additional, eleven prizes, mostly for its varied cast. It premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or. It was written and directed by Damián Szifron who was mainly an Argentinian short-film maker and TV writer, which probably explains this movie's structure.

Szifron's film is very episodic. In fact, it's six episodes or six, distinct, short stories that don't overlap or are connected narrative-wise. They're six, completely separate stories that run back-to-back. The six are somewhat connected thematically like in Paris, je t'aime (2007) or The ABC's of Death (2013). It's essentially an anthology film where the possible connecting theme is revenge.

Even before having seen the first, that theme is pretty easy to guess. The first story called "Pasternak" is very straight-forward. It sets the tone that you're in store for Tales from the Crypt (1989) or Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), more than The Twilight Zone, and not simply due to the lack of sci-fi or fantasy elements.

It's not clever or with anything deep to say. They're all basically morbid jokes. Szifron has punchlines, but having punchlines doesn't make a movie clever or even all that funny. What's frustrating is how predictable the movie is. With the exception of the second story called "The Rats," there was no real surprise.

The only short story I thought was even half-way interesting or comical in a dark manner was the fifth one called "The Proposal." It takes a horrible situation and makes it even more horrible by not escalating the violence or even threatening more violence, as he does in the other shorts, but by actually making things more calm and more business-like. It's Szifron at his best.

It's too bad that the other stories didn't have that level of ingenuity. They're all sinister larks that even collectively didn't deserve an Oscar-nomination, but certainly would be entertaining to those who like Quentin Tarantino or that HBO adaptation of the William Gaines and Al Feldstein comic.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.


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