Wild Tales

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Laura Clifford 
Wild Tales

Robin Clifford 

Faced with betrayal, injustice and fear, most people find acceptable outlets for their emotions or allow external forces to overwhelm them, but there are those who embrace their basest instincts.  Heady with the laws of the jungle, man becomes beast in Argentinean writer/director Damián Szifrón's six "Wild Tales."

Laura:
Most omnibus films are uneven and while the Oscar-nominated "Wild Tales" is one of the better ones, one of its tales could be excised completely and another seems all too familiar (echoes of Italy's "Human Capital," for one).  Szifrón does know how to begin and end with a bang, but it's his central story with his biggest star that is the most relatable.

The before the title credit opener “Pasternak” is a quickly escalating joke where unlikely fellow air passengers discover they all have ties to the titular character.  It's a toss off, a one note gag that's just short enough to set the tone.

I'm still trying to figure out just what the motivation was for “The Rats," though, a tale of revenge-by-proxy set in a shabby roadside cafe with an ex-con cook (Rita Cortese) who rashly avenges the wrongs dealt the family of a meek waitress.

“Road To Hell” is another one note joke, an escalation of road rage between an urban Audi driver (Leonardo Sbaraglia, "Intacto") and a rural junk hauler (Walter Donado).  Both men are at fault, so there's no rooting interest in anything but the inventive extremes these men go to, capped with a grisly visual gag.

Ricardo Darín ("The Secret in Their Eyes," "Carancho") stars in "Bombito," in which he becomes the titular folk hero by taking on a corrupt system with domestic terrorism.  A demolition expert respected in his field is also revealed as a put upon husband, whose wife is only concerned that he arrive home by 5 with his daughter's birthday cake.  Held up for outrageous sums, first by the bakery, then by the towing company who spirits his car away from an unposted space, the man's indignation spills over after losing his wife, his job, and yes, his car again. The man's occupation points the way towards his ultimate expression, but the short film's conclusion is too forgiving.

“The Deal” could be called 'Survival of the Fittest,' were fitness defined by wealth and power. With his son weeping over having hit a pregnant woman on his way home from night clubbing, wealthy businessman Mauricio (Oscar Martínez) comes up with the ideal answer in the form of his impoverished gardener.  Brokered by his lawyer (Osmar Núñez), the gardener will accept a large fee for taking the guilty son's rap.  But when police involvement means one too many try to drink from the well, Mauricio calls foul.  The story's familiar and none too subtle (the lawyer sits next to two mounted shark jaws) and just guess who pays the biggest price...

The movie wraps with perhaps its wildest entry, a woman scorned.  In “Til Death Do Us Part” we are witness to a lavish Jewish wedding that turns into a melee when the bride Romina (Érica Rivas, "Tetro") figures out her groom Ariel (Diego Gentile) has slept with one of his wedding guests.  Rivas gives the most entertaining performance as Romina becomes thoroughly unhinged, promising her man a life of hell for his one indiscretion.  Wild eyed, hair on end and bloody by the tale's end, Romina's concluding rewooing by her chastised groom truly plays like a savage mating ritual.

"Wild Tales" isn't terribly cinematic, employing a workmanlike tell-the-story visual style, simply fading to black between segments.  The screenplay is by turns too obvious and not symbolic enough of its animal kingdom counterparts.  This is a solid, universal comedy, but its Foreign Language Film nomination is baffling.

Grade:  B

Robin:
Robin also gives "Wild Tales" a B.
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