Overview: A wildcard police investigator and a young murder victim’s father individually pursue the main suspect in the case, each with sinister intention. Magnolia Pictures; 2014; Unrated; 110 Minutes.
Who Brought This Guy: You know that wisecracking, cynical friend you have who believes himself clever and makes the effort to advertise his unaffected edginess in the face of any negative stimuli? You don’t take this friend to a horror movie unless you want to taint the experience for everyone in earshot of his steady quips. Well, Big Bad Wolves is a movie that comes factory-loaded with that disruptive amateur comedian. Ten minutes and a handful of poorly executed jokes into this movie, it dawned on me that this film fancies itself a dark comedy. I fancy it a second-rate torture-porn thriller tripping over its own dirty clown shoes.
The Dark: There is a biological impulse inherent in nearly every human life to protect children. Because of this, perhaps the easiest way for a movie to force audience investment is to endanger or harm children. It’s a manipulative but successful move. And it’s wasted here. The film offers thin characters, actors stretched between the counter-intuitive pairing of revenge for a murdered child and humor. All the loaded speeches in the world can’t save an actor from this impossible juggling act. There are a lot of areas where Big Bad Wolves could have set itself apart, but co-writers and directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado earn a substandard grade in every category. This effort is shamed by the cutting psychological and sociological exploration of vigilante torture in 2013’s Prisoners and the lesser-known Australian thriller The Horseman, vastly superior films of nearly identical subject matter. There is nothing exceptionally jarring about the by-the-book torture and Tzahi Grad as Gidi is shamefully tame in the pivotal role of hero father stepping over the moral line. And the comedy…
The Comedy: Look, I’m all for black humor, but it has to be intelligently-conceived to earn its place, and then it has to be funny. This movie is neither. Big Bad Wolves attempts situational comedy (Gidi’s mother calling mid-torture session to nag and worry), domestic observation humor (Gidi’s father joins the torture and outlines his marriage to the victim), and junior-high level retorts with exaggerated, sarcastic expressive reactions (the worst offender here is Lior Ashkenazi as Miki, like a homely Steve Carrell without the knack for timing). I was too exhausted by the comedic misfires to even raise an eyebrow at the film’s closing attempt at a shocking dramatic reveal.
Overall: You know that old adage: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This film didn’t have to be made and it certainly doesn’t have to be watched. Go ahead and skip this one.