By the time his name comes up in the opening credits it is entirely clear why Pedro Almodóvar is featured so prominently in the ad campaign for “Wild Tales,” a new Argentine film and nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Director Damián Szifrón has taken Almodóvar’s playful and often darkly comedic style. Thanks to its six fresh and exciting takes on a tried and true theme — vengeance — the film is wonderfully over-the-top and
The film is an anthology comprising distinct shorts with different casts and settings. However, they all have one thing in common: they are revenge stories centered on people who are pushed over the edge and react in explosive and violent manners. Many of the stories could have worked as feature films, but they each feel like the perfect length in the context of the anthology.
As is the case with any anthology, there are some segments that work better than others, but none fall flat. My personal favorites of mine were “Road to Hell” and “Bombita,” which occur back-to-back and work for entirely different reasons. “Road to Hell,” encompassing a road rage incident that gets blown way out of proportion, succeeds because of its expertly paced escalation and its unpredictability. “Bombita,” about a man whose life falls into disarray because of a parking ticket, is hilarious and also functions as cathartic social satire. Also worth mentioning is “Pasternak,” which, in addition to being the opener and the shortest, is also the most outlandish. It sets the tone perfectly from the start, giving the audience a taste of the mayhem that is to come and delivering the biggest laugh in the whole runtime.
Despite the unbelievably high level of violence, the stories still exude a sense of warmth and delight due to the high amount of laughter matching the spilled blood. “Til Death Do Us Part,” a story about a bride who reveals her husband’s cheating nature on her wedding, would be heartbreaking if not for the twists that the story takes, so ridiculous and amusing that I couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief.
When combined, the six segments in “Wild Tales” do not add up to much of an overall statement, but there is no need for them to do so. Each one stands on its own as an innovative and entertaining take on revenge. Szifrón has crafted a dark comedy anthology with a remarkable energy.