If you’re a fan of black humour and people getting their own back, then you’ll revel in this collection of revenge stories. Passions run high in these six Wild Tales from Argentina – darkly comic escalations in violence sparked by road rage, parking problems or wedding day jealousy.
This hugely entertaining film, written and directed by Argentine Damian Szifron, has been likened to the work of both Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar (one of its producers), with its deadpan juxtaposing of violence and comedy, and its extravagant depiction of characters on the edge of losing the plot.
The first story, Pasternak, is perhaps the most far-fetched, but it has unfortunate echoes of a recent real life tragedy. A woman starts chatting to her neighbour on an air journey. She is a catwalk model; he is a music critic. It quickly transpires that they have someone in common: Gabriel Pasternak, a one-time classical musician and former boyfriend that the woman cheated on and the critic savaged. Overhearing their conversation, another woman pipes up – she used to be his teacher. What kind of ‘cosmic coincidence’ is going on here? But the Airplane! tone quickly takes a nosedive.
In El más fuerte (Spanish:The strongest) the path of a suave Audi driver is blocked by a rusty old banger. Although they are alone on a deserted highway, the old car repeatedly swerves into the middle of the road to prevent the Audi passing. When the frustrated driver does finally manage to over-take, he gives his ‘redneck’ opponent the finger and insults him. A flat tyre further down the road leads to a brilliantly orchestrated tit-for-tat battle between the two men. It has the menace of Spielberg’s Duel and another 70s classic, Deliverance, with the invention and comic timing of Laurel & Hardy’s best revenge shorts, such as Them Thar Hills. You are unlikely to see a more satisfying cinematic explosion, payoff line or final image this year.
The next story, Bombita (Dynamite), continues the road rage theme, with Argentinian star Ricardo Darin as a demolition expert, who eventually cracks after his car is towed away and impounded for violating a no-parking zone. His battle with bureaucracy jeopardises his marriage, his relationship with his kids, his job and his sanity. In a clever resolution with a modern twist Mr Dynamite fights back.
After this double-whammy the audience has time to catch its breath with La Propuesta (The proposal), a slower and more realistic tale of a wealthy couple trying to cover up for their son when he leaves the scene of a driving accident.
No cars feature in the climactic Wild Tale, but there is plenty of carnage. ‘Too bad this country is so unsafe’ remarks the bride’s mother-in-law amidst the glitterballs and champagne of an opulent hotel wedding party. Prophetic words: when bride Romina (Erica Rivas) finds out that her new husband has cheated on her with one of their guests, all hell breaks loose. Few are left unscathed after a lavishly demented breakdown/showdown. A broken heart leads to broken glass and more as the magnificently deranged Rivas runs riot.
The beauty of a portmanteau film like Wild Tales is that the weaker stories can be quickly passed over. The second of the six, which concerns a waitress, a loan shark and rat poison, is unsatisfying when compared to the others. But overall, the film is a triumph of Latino zest and black humour.