Quentin Tarantino has endorsed this cleverly nasty Israeli revenge thriller as the best film of 2013, and it’s easy to see why: Gruesome violence, sardonic humour, a kidnap-and-torture plot – not to forget the creative use of pliers, a saw and a blowtorch.
The writing-directing team of former film critic and professor Aharon Keshales and his one-time student, Navot Papushado, have been hailed as pioneers in Israel for their enthusiastic embrace of down-and-dirty genre cinema (their 2010 debut film, Rabies, is considered Israel’s first slasher flick) in a country better known for its art house than grind house.
While Big Bad Wolves delivers the Hostel-like torture jolts with ruthless precision, the movie is also a rudely funny satire of a macho, paranoid culture where the protection of children is used to justify any conduct.
In the basement of a home in a remote Arab neighbourhood, rogue detective Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) and Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of a raped and decapitated school girl, are torturing a suspect for a confession.
The suspect is a nebbishy religion teacher, Dror (Rotem Keinan), with a young daughter of his own. His interrogators want him to confess what he did with the child’s head, but Dror insists on both his ignorance and innocence. Adding to the complexity is the arrival of Gidi’s father (Dov Glickman), to deliver some soup to his supposedly ailing son. Like almost every Israeli male in the film, the mild-mannered old gent is a font of helpful interrogation suggestions.
Throughout Big Bad Wolves, Keshales and Papushado don’t pull any punches, either in delivering the gruesome jolts or ridiculing the zealotry of the perpetrators.