By Dwight Brown
NNPA Film Critic
Back in the day, The Twilight Zone did it right. Each episode started with an everyday routine, then it added a couple of wicked twists, and before you could say, “Rod Serling” things went completely askew. Argentinean writer/director Damian Szifron has that same knack, which he exhibits masterfully in six wicked vignettes. Themes of injustice, outrage, vengeance and reprisals are neatly woven together in a way that that boggles the mind and raises a smirk.
Sit through all six, and you’ll have a hard time distinguishing the one you liked best: Pasternak finds a plane full of passengers, who, upon starting haphazard conversations, realize they are all connected to one man, whom they’ve wronged. Once the plane leaves the ground, it’s clear none are safe. The Rats shows a waitress in a dive diner serving a loan shark who pushed her father to kill himself. Revenge is a dish best served cold and poisonous. Road to Hell pits a dapper sports car driver against a man in a far less luxurious vehicle. It starts with someone flipping the bird and ends with a case of road rage that turns into road kill.
A demolition engineer, who blows up unwanted buildings for a profession, finds a way to get even when his car is towed and the DMV gives him the run-around in Bombita. The Bill is a tad darker than the other stories, but as engaging. A rich young man kills someone in a hit-and-run, and his dad gets their gardener to take the blame. Everybody pays the price. ‘Til Death Do Us Part closes the movie. On their wedding day, a bride and groom struggle to come to terms with his infidelity. She, while still swathed in her Vera Wang wedding dress, one-ups him in front of the guests.
Slivers of life gone awry take you in funny or perverted directions and they’ll make you reconsider your rash actions and ponder Karma. Credit Szifron for the brilliant storytelling and astute direction: The actors move along like checkers on a checkerboard, headed to the other side and not knowing which ones will make it. Some deserve their fate; others are destined no matter what they do. As an audience, through their performances, you rid yourself of pent-up anger. You tell off your antagonists. You get sweet revenge on dehumanizing institutions. You stick it to the lovers who wronged you. This may be one of the most cathartic films ever made. And it is a sick puppy.
Some vignettes move at a breakneck speed, others languish and make you wait. If you find yourself getting restless at points, be patient, a reward is coming. Overall, Pablo Barbieri Carrera and Szifron’s editing is sharp as a butcher knife. Javier Julia’s cinematography consists of perfect lighting and a great sense for color that highlights Maria Clara Notari’s production design. It’s rare that a casting director’s genius is so obvious, but Javier Braier pulls together a huge, disparate cast that is dopey, baiting, mean or gloriously evil at the right times.
If a past transgression has been eating your soul alive, this twisted film could be your remedy. Group therapy in a theater. Wild Tales is like an Argentinean Twilight Zone for the repressed, and it was nominated for a 2014 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s that good.
Visit NNPA Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.