Review: Wild Tales (Szifrón, 2014)

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Wild Tales boasts a collection of six unconnected stories focused around acts of revenge or extreme frustration boiling over into violent action. Whilst technically proficient and stylistic, this Pedro Almodóvar-produced anthology suffers from a lack of intelligence behind its immediate shock value, paired with an inability to sustain its comedic elements through the crude and indulgent episodes of violent spectacle that the film seems to take an uncomfortable amount of pleasure in depicting. Like all anthology films, the level of artifice is ramped up by the nature of the format itself. The form also makes it difficult to talk about the stories in any great detail without spoiling the events which prompt the action; but it can be said that they include a mysterious plane flight, the tale of a corrupt politician, an incident of road rage, a frustrating encounter with city officialdom, a hit-and-run and a wedding which takes a devastating turn.

There are elements to like in its two hour running time, but unlike the majority of those who have seen the film I found Wild Tales to be little more than an exercise in bad taste and excess. It’s clear from the first outlandish episode that director Damián Szifrón is more concerned with brawn than with brains. There’s no sense of believability in any of the stories; the characters are pawns in a giant directorial game moving towards a pay-off for the film’s audience which bears little resemblance to logic or reality. ‘But it’s a comedy’, you may say! Sure enough, moments of Kafkaesque frustration experienced by one or two characters rallying against the illogical bureaucracy of local government offer some instances of witty comedy, but these are few and far between. One issue is the film’s uneven quality, the second episode in particular being noticeably pointless and largely forgettable. I imagine most people watching the film can be placed into two camps: those who laugh ecstatically as two characters bludgeon and slice each other to death and those who will wince and roll their eyes as soon as the film wanders into the realm of bloody punch-ups and bodily functions. More problematic is the film’s use of realistic violence as entertainment in the current climate of terrorism and warfare. If you’re in the mood for a film which has about as much intellectual depth as an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, Wild Tales is for you. If you’re looking for something doesn’t treat its audience like they’re twelve years old, look elsewhere.         

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