“Wild Tales”, an Argentine film which was deservedly nominated in Best Foreign Language Film Oscar early in this year, is like a fabulous dinner course almost perfect from the beginning to the ending. With each own spices and ingredients, its six different stories entertain us as serving a dish called revenge wild, dark, and hilarious. Because each of them is so funny and smart in their setup, progress, and execution like any excellent short film should, I will try as much as possible while describing them to you one by one, but I strongly recommend you to watch this terrific portmanteau movie right now lest I unintentionally spoil your entertainment in this review.
As the apéritif of the movie, the opening segment, “Pasternak”, succinctly establishes the overall tone of not only itself but also the following segments. Mainly because they happen to sit near each other, two passengers on the board begin a small conversation not long after their plane takes off, and it looks like just another usual interaction between two total strangers during flight. But then, in the middle of the conversation, they realize that both of them actually know a certain man – and that is not the only surprise for them. After slowly building up its momentum like an airplane ready for its immediate takeoff, “Pasternak” quickly accelerates itself as we and the characters in the film come to see what is really going on, and then it literally dashes into the arrival spot with shock and laugh for us.
What follows after the main title sequence, which humorously reflects our primal nature behind revenge and retribution, certainly meets our expectation – and more. First, we are served with “The Rats” and “Road to Hell” as appetizers, and these two spicy hors-d’oeuvres delight us with darkly comic suspense before striking us with their pungent final taste. After that, the three main course dishes are respectively served in “Bombita”, “The Deal”, and “Till Death Do Us Apart”, and these segments have lots of things to savor in their meatier tales which amuse and jolt us with their barbed but cheerful sense of black humor.
“The Rats” is about another accidental encounter associated with revenge. A guy enters an empty diner during one night, and a young waitress recognizes him as a man responsible for her family’s misery a long time ago. Her co-worker, a blunt, acerbic middle-aged female cook who is also an ex-con feeling no qualms about committing a crime, does not hesitate to suggest that she should not throw away this golden opportunity for her revenge. A tool for murder comes handy to the waitress as the cook points out, but she is uncertain about whether this is really what she wants – or whether that tool in question is really effective.
“Road to Hell” presents us a deadly confrontation which may remind you of Steven Spielberg’s “Duel” (1971) and other similar thriller films on the road. A young man is driving fast along a remote road with his fancy sports car, and he becomes annoyed when some shabby vehicle blocks his way. As passing that vehicle, he throws insults at its driver who looks older and poorer than him, and, not so surprisingly, that turns out to be a very big mistake. Not long after their unpleasant encounter, his car suddenly has a flat tire problem, and there surely comes an expected trouble driving toward him along the road. This may look pretty obvious to you, but then the eventual mutual hostility between two contrasting characters goes all the way along with the violent slapstick absurdity fueled by its take-no-prisoner attitude. You will keep wondering how further it can go with that, and I can only tell you that it definitely goes pretty far before delivering its punch line which is one of the biggest laughs in the film.
“Bombita” and “The Deal” are less gritty compared to “Road to Hell”, but that does not mean that they are less clever or hilarious. In “Bombita”, things become quite nightmarish for its ordinary hero after his car happens to be towed away due to a silly administration mistake. He arrives very late at his young daughter’s birthday party because of that incident, and then his wife tells him later that she is going to leave him because she cannot stand his continuing neglects on her and their daughter any more. When he tries to make a petition on how unfairly he was fined for illegal parking, he finds himself hitting against the uncaring attitude of bureaucracy, and then he becomes more frustrated and furious as his life continues to be crumbled more and more as a result of his protest. He eventually decides to do something, and it will not be much of a spoiler to tell you that, as shown in the beginning, he surely knows how to get his sweet, efficient revenge as a professional with a particular set of skills.
In case of “The Deal”, it revolves around the immediate personal crisis of a rich business man who has to protect his reckless young son responsible for a terrible hit-and-run incident. The father is willing to pay the prosecutor, his family lawyer, and his poor gardener who is persuaded to be a patsy in exchange of money, but the situation becomes quite silly as everyone joining in this scheme tries to benefit from it as much as they can. As the angry public demand for swift justice is growing outside minute by minute, the father feels more pressure put upon him, but, as a seasoned business man, he does know how to deal with such a shifty deal negotiation like this.
The final segment “Till Death Do Us Apart” begins with an ongoing wedding ceremony full of joy and happiness, but it soon goes into a far darker mood after the bride discovers her husband’s infidelity by accident. Deeply angered and hurt by this, she is initially thrown into the pit of despair and sorrow, but then she is fully charged by her bloody thirst for revenge. Hell has no fury like a bride betrayed on her wedding day, and her husband and the guests at the wedding are going to have a night to remember for the rest of their life. And, of course, there will be a big cake to be served in the end as the dessert for them and us.
All of these six stories are written and directed by Damián Szifrón, and he deftly present his stories under his smooth, masterful direction. Most of anthology films are usually mixed bags while feeling inconsistent or disjointed in the aspects of tone and quality, but “Wild Tales” effortlessly flows from one story to the other at its obligatory transition points, and all of its stories are flawlessly bound together through their lethal black comedy, Szifrón’s dexterous storytelling, and the uniformly good performances from his wonderful cast. Absolutely shocking and outrageous at the most unexpected moments, the movie is also supremely amusing and hilarious, and I found myself laughing or chuckling hard as it went further for more laughs and absurdities to deliver payoffs as satisfying as promised, if not more than that. Overall, this is one hell of fun ride you cannot miss.