Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes, Spanish Original title)
Pretty great expectations (an intriguing and disturbing trailer, excellent reviews) and the will of following the path successfully taken with "La Isla Mínima", moving for a little while from the indie stuff, made us choose "Relatos Salvajes" ('Wild Tales") as our next film. Not that lucky this time.
There's nothing exactly wrong with the film, to be honest. Just that, in my opinion it fails short, at times quite short, from what it promised. For starters, it was labelled as a twisted, very dark collection of comedic episodes. But with few exceptions, laughs weren't that abundant. Yep, I know violence does the trick for many. Again I left the theatre of feeling disconnected with the majority of the audience and the moments where they explode in guffaws.
Second, and as usually happens with this sort of episodic films, not every chapter of the six shorts linked by one single subject, vengeance, works at the same level as others, with a couple of them being close to mediocrity. Better to proceed one by one, so I can point flaws, but also virtues.
First let down is “The Rats”, in which a waitress realises her sole customer is the monster who ruined her family life. It's far from being original, and all the fun is reserved to the laconic one-liners of her working mate, the cook proposing the deathly revenge in the name of all the s__ of a b____ out there. Also average, although flawlessly filmed is the next piece “Road to Hell”. This violent short is also classic in its concept. A wealthy young businessman (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is driving his Audi when he clashes with a redneck Peugeot driver. It seems a minor little incident but soon turns out to be an absurd trip to hell. Unfortunately, it's quite predictable.
Luckily, "Relatos Salvajes" is rescued by its two following numbers, both with a clear social comment included. “Bombita”, probably the best of the lot, has an excellent Ricardo Darin as Simon, a very common man with the exception of an unusual job. He gets extremely (and brilliantly portrayed) burnt-up by this capitalist, merciless, fake system. Until he says enough and puts in practice his knowledge to perpetrate his revenge. What a revealing piece. Even more serious is “The Bill”, where darkness leaves very little to zero space for humour. It's the deepest and more ambitious in scope short of the lot, one where Szifron wants to denounce privilege and power, saying that money is able to buy everything... and sometimes that is also a problem. What a missed opportunity the rest of the movie doesn't live up to these two stories.
Final chapter “Till Death Do Us Part” uses and, in my opinion, forces, all the jokes we have already seen at movies with a wedding. Yes, Szifron pack it with a flamboyant talent and an actress (Erica Rivas) that is so credible in her no-holds-barrier-anger as the humiliated bride Romina. But all the mess and chaos is pretty empty.
Half of the movie excels, the other half pales by comparison. I get that the "mad as hell" idea of the film can be rewarding and (that's harder for me) exhilarating for some of the audience. Plus the film is visually impeccable and, being objective, entertaining. Sadly, I think the director put something more enduring and rich in a couple of his stories. But that's only 1/3 of the movie.