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'Big Bad Wolves' review: The better to beat you with

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Big Bad Wolves

Rating:
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"Big Bad Wolves" will begin playing in Houston at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park location starting Friday, January 31.

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In "Big Bad Wolves," a sadistic killer is on the loose who targets young girls. As if violating and torturing the girls before killing them wasn't enough, this twisted individual likes to decapitate his victims; sometimes while they're still awake and conscious and prefers to use a rusty saw. Israeli police officer Mickey (Lior Ashkenazi) is put on the case, but likes to do whatever it takes to get what he's looking for even if that means doing something that's frowned upon by the commissioner Tsvika (Dvir Benedek). After questioning a teacher named Dror (Rotem Keinan) and beating him senseless, a Youtube video of the incident goes viral and Mickey is stripped of his duties. But Mickey is convinced Dror is still the prime suspect and pursues his one lead as a civilian with nothing to lose. Meanwhile, Gidi (Tzahi Grad) is the man whose daughter was the most recent victim in this heinous string of murders and is making his own preparations for how he'll cope with the loss of his daughter.

This Israeli thriller begins with a game of hide and seek portrayed in slow-motion and played by what looks like three teenagers (two girls and one boy) in a broken down and abandoned house. One of the girls goes missing and only a red shoe is found in her hiding place as the title of the film is seen on the roof as the camera pans out. You're introduced to the incredible score of the film early on and it seems to be boasting in a way in how triumphant it sounds. After the first five minutes of the film, the music backs off yet is always lurking in the background and tapping at the window. It's as if the music of "Big Bad Wolves" is always huffing and puffing and pounding to be let in.

While the film is extremely dark, as you can probably imagine, there's also a lot of black comedy thrown in to lighten things up a little. When Tsvika first calls Mickey into his office, it's bring your kid to work day and Tsvika's son is sitting there while Tsvika scolds Mickey parroting everything he says. Doval'e Glickman portrays Yoram, Gidi's father, and the back and forth conversations Glickman and Grad have between each other at the most inopportune moments are fairly amusing. There's a scene where Yoram and Gidi are upstairs in the kitchen eating soup. The scene is very calm and serene. The two of them are talking about how wonderful Gidi's mother's cooking is. But what's taking place below them is much more hectic and grim. Then there's the scene where a man is interested in buying a house and has the real estate agent scream at the top of her lungs while he's walking around upstairs. There's this very lighthearted twist at times that makes something very dark extremely easy to digest and enjoy.

"Big Bad Wolves" is a thriller that keeps you guessing. The viewer is left contemplating whether Dror is guilty of these crimes or an innocent man and when you think your mind is made up the film makes your brain shift in the opposite direction. The cinematography is very simple and yet beautiful. Something straightforward like an actor sitting on a bench is shown completely blurry at first, but slowly comes into focus as the camera crawls up on the actor. The inside of the house where nearly half of the film takes place has these glorious mahogany walls and floors that seem to shine whenever they're showcased and the long, narrow corridor that leads to the room where a man is looking for retribution makes you tense and gives you the shivers.

There are very light shades of Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" in "Big Bad Wolves" and while the content is incredibly horrific and gruesome not much of it is shown on screen. The film knows when to pull back and seems to know that less is more in that sense. It's very similar to the original "The Human Centipede" film in the sense that while disgusting situations are discussed quite thoroughly, you typically don't see most of it. You're shown enough to get the point across.

While "Big Bad Wolves" will likely be slandered by some for its grotesque nature, there's much more to the thriller than that since you feel like you're right along with these police officers trying to unravel the mystery and enjoying the carefree demeanor of most of these characters even when their career is on the line or when possibly facing unbearable torture. "Big Bad Wolves" may not be "the best film of the year" like certain directors are claiming, but it is a well-executed thriller that leads its audience down unsuspected winding dirt roads filled with painful uncertainty and a foreseeable yet inevitable amount of suffering.

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