[This is a repost of our 2015 review]
Revenge is a complicated thing. No matter how slight the injustice, we have a primal need to set things right, to stand up for ourselves, and to make someone pay. More often than not it’ll probably end up making everything worse, but when pushed far enough even the most level-headed of us will damn the consequences and give in to the white hot rage. Sometimes that means losing just as much as whoever it is being punished, but really it’s a matter of perspective whether that momentary catharsis was worth the cost.
In hopes of answering that question Wild Tales offers six perspectives on revenge with its series of thematically connected short stories. Some present it as the catalyst for an inescapable and all-consuming cycle, while others show just how inspiring it can be for the little guy to get one back at a world that walked all over him. Varied though they are, each is valid in their message and all work together to make Wild Tales an honest, if slightly exaggerated, mosaic of revenge. Of course, all of this comes second to the roller coaster plotting and finely tuned black comedy that makes Wild Tales the absolute thrill ride it is.
Going into too much detail on the individual stories of Damián Sziforón’s Argentinian anthology is to rob you of the joy of discovery each time the scene shifts, so for now let’s focus on the film as a whole. Opening with a perfectly mundane exchange, Wild Tales quickly transitions into something oddly comic, and then straight onto disaster before you get a chance to settle in. After this taste of the comedy and chaos in store, Wild Tales proceeds full steam ahead with energy and confidence as it takes you from one absurd situation to the next.
The pacing is perfect and each of the film’s components transition wonderfully into one another, titillating you with what’s next and holding a momentum that never lets up. On reflection there is one section that doesn’t quite capture the humor or shock as well as the others, but in terms of the greater subtext it’s essential that one of these tales present a more sobering and tragic angle. It’s a necessary evil in having an authentic discussion, and thankfully the quality of Sziiforón’s writing is such that it doesn’t take you off course to any substantial degree.
The tone remains decidedly jovial despite the dark themes and onscreen violence. Wild Tales is proudly exaggerated, escalating conflicts to ridiculous conclusions, but reining itself in to ensure the stories are still plausible and unfold organically. Rather than throwing in external complications to the unfolding situations, Sziiforón prefers to set a volatile scene, removing anything that could ease tensions, and sits back until it all goes up in flames. Of the six sections, only two feature revenge that is in anyway calculated, leaving most of the stories to feature emotionally unprepared subjects spiraling gloriously out of control. There is one notable exception, which features a man getting even with a corrupt system, that stretches the believability of its conclusion quite far. Luckily the feel-good, underdog story gives you enough of a smile that you can forgive its silliness and jump straight into the much more grounded episode that follows.
Across its six chapters, Wild Tales boasts an impressive and varied Spanish-speaking cast. While the roles range from comedic caricatures to the emotionally exhausting, pretty well every actor in focus hits their mark and leaves an impression despite how little time you actually spend with them. Given the comedy is mostly situational, the cast are able to bring the laughs simply by virtue of strong acting in amusing situations, but special mention goes to Ricardo Darin, whose comedic timing is pitch perfect as the downtrodden demolitions expert Simón.
As generally wonderful as the cast are, there simply isn’t enough time to give everyone their due praise (nor a way to do it without spoiling their stories). But I would be remiss not to mention Erica Rivas as the bride Romina in Wild Tales’ final story. More than any other character in the film, Romina runs an intense emotional gauntlet of fear, anger, empowerment, joy and out-and-out bat-shit crazy, all of which are handled ably by Rivas as she leads the audience through Wild Tales’ grand finale. Not only is Romina’s story the perfect tale to finish on, her character encapsulates all the disparate riffs on revenge the film had thus far presented, bringing the film’s thesis home by showing both the liberating and frightening aspects of revenge in perfectly indistinguishable tandem.
Once the dust settles on Wild Tales‘ final explosion of emotional bedlam, it somehow finds a way to brush itself off, take a deep breath, and give us what is surprisingly a reasonably happy ending. More impressively, it manages to do so in a way that doesn’t betray the tone or stories that are set before it and simply stirs a little heart into the film’s final moments of uncouth comedy. Wild Tales grabs you from the very first scene and fluctuates between filling you with laughter and dreadful anticipation until its very last shot. Captivating for every second of its two-hour run-time, Wild Tales is pure, unbridled fun.