Director: Damian Szifron
Stars: Ricardo Darin, Maria Onetto
4 (out of 5) Globes
The title doesn’t lie: “Wild Tales” is little more than a series of tales, seven in all, that have little in common except that could at least charitably be called wild. That’s not true: Most involve revenge of some sort. All are darkly comic works of nastiness, and none stop at the easy conclusion; like their protagonists, they aren’t able to quit at the obvious point, but keep going, piling on another crazed twist or two, or three, or four. They’re each models of narrative economy, confident pacing, information parceling and detached, comic tones, observing as people let their reckless emotions steer situations well out of control, resulting in conclusions either hilariously grim or disarmingly joyful. Who cares if they don’t tie up in more meaningful ways? Who needs deeper unity?
And yet if one looks — or, it could be said, strains — something else is there. It’s a broad spectrum of Argentina, or really Western civilization in general. Class often comes into issue, whether it’s the “Flashdance” soundtrack-listening bourgie speeding through the desert, fomenting an altercation with a blue collar type over a minor slight, or the wealthy father facing throwing around millions to police and a lowly groundskeeper to bribe his son out of a hit-and-run rap. In both cases rich and poor are brought down to the same level of pettiness and greed. No one’s very happy, certainly not the hotheaded engineer (Ricardo Darin) riled up to absurdist heights after a towing company falsifies a claim, sticking him with a pricey ticket that he, despite his insane antics, legitimately does not deserve.
There’s another theme that runs through some, not all, of “Wild Tales”: there’s a complexity to each of the stories’ rows. Sometimes neither side is in the right. Other times someone’s wrong and right simultaneously. That explains Darin’s temper-handicapped freak, who is nonetheless in the right, and plans a revenge that’s almost, to a point, defensible. In the film’s closer, a bride discovers her new husband cheated on her at the start of their wedding reception, and her vengeance goes from satisfyingly over-the-top to monotonous to actually monstrous, then to another level entirely. Here, writer-director Damian Szifron plays with the expectations his film has set. We expect the story to find a suitably ludicrous ending, but this one keeps going, and going, and going, in the mad search for one that feels just right. If Szifron spent the remainder of his life cranking out compilation shorts, humanity — or the ones that enjoy mordant misery — would be the better for it.