Desperate to find a missing girl, Israeli police officer Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) opts to beat information out of Dror (Rotem Keinan), a school teacher, who is the primary suspect in a series of gruesome child murders. Miki is forced by his boss to let Dror go and the girl subsequently turns up dead. In the aftermath of the killing, Miki is suspended, due to a viral video of him beating up Dror, and he decides to take the law into his own hands. He is beaten to the punch by Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the girl’s father, who ties Dror up in the basement of his isolated house. With Miki as his reluctant accomplice, Gidi copies the killer’s modus operandi, to perform his own form of retribution and get some form of closure for his daughter’s death.
The title of Big Bad Wolves comes from the fairy tale metaphors Gidi uses to describe the killings, calling the killer a wolf. Gidi and Miki essentially become wolves themselves, in order to torture information out Dror, namely the location the Gidi’s daughter’s severed head. However, the problem is that both of them are acting out of passion and don’t even know for sure that Dror is really the killer. That’s where the real message of Big Bad Wolves comes from. These men are so sure that Dror is the killer that they are willing to torture him for information. However, the audience watching the film is not so sure. In fact, Dror is seen as a family man, who might just be a victim of public perception. When the film starts, Dror is merely a person of interest, however Miki’s passions take over and he becomes convinced without a doubt that Dror is the killer. Miki begins to get second thoughts when he begins talking to Dror and even attempts at one point to stop Gidi from performing the torture. However, Gidi is quite convinced that Dror is the killer and is willing to go to the furthest extremes, which eventually includes the help of Gidi’s father Yoram (Doval'e Glickman).
While this all sounds like a very dark and horrific movie, Big Bad Wolves actually has quite a bit of dark comedy. I thought the film was quite good in how effortlessly it is able to move between being very tense to being quite humorous. For instance, there is a scene, where Gidi is about to perform a horrific act when his cellphone (with a “Ride of the Valkyries” ringtone) suddenly goes off. There is also a very light-hearted scene, which has Gidi baking a cake, accompanied to the Buddy Holly song “Everyday.” Then of course there’s a very odd sight of an Arabic man riding a horse. It is these little comedic moments that helps make Big Bad Wolves more than merely a dark crime thriller.
For much of the plot, Big Bad Wolves is trying to say that “maniacs are only afraid of maniacs.” However, as Gidi goes to higher extremes to get the information he wants, he begins to lose sight of the bigger picture. Ultimately, Gidi’s vigilantism against Dror is very selfish act and Gidi never once stops to consider the consequences of his actions, until it is much too late.
Overall, I have to say that I thought that Big Bad Wolves was an excellent character study. While the film is definitely not for mainstream consumption and there will likely be many who are disturbed by all the violent torture in the film, it is a film that is ripe for analysis and examining exactly what causes people to resort to taking the law into their own hands, especially when they are not absolutely certain of the guilt of the man they are going after. This film was definitely a great way to end the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.10 | LOVED IT