Wild Tales (2014) Movie Review

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Wild Tales movie review
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

An innocent conversation between two passengers after just boarding a plane eventually results in the realization they each happen to have a history with the same person. One was an instructor at a prestigious music school at which a young man applied and she was the young man’s boyfriend at the same time of his application. As fate would have it, they just so happen to be on the same flight at the same time, or does fate have anything to do with it? This is the first of six short films that comprise the whole of director Damián Szifron‘s Wild Tales, a title that couldn’t be more apt and a movie that would be hard-pressed to be any more darkly hysterical.

That being said, I’m reluctant to say much more and will be as vague as possible from here on out. After reading that opening paragraph you now know more than I did going in and to reveal much having to do with the narratives of the five short stories that follow would be to cheat you of discovering them for yourself. Suffice to say, the main theme that seems to proliferate all six stories on one level or another is that of revenge as the general sense of frustration humans share is put to the test in a variety of scenarios.

These are tales of karma and comeuppance and none of them end as you would predict, and all but one of them to wildly hilarious results. What is your “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” breaking point? At what point does retribution turn into utter madness? Wild Tales has the answer.

In a nutshell, here are the bare bones of the five stories that follow the one I already laid out for you: 1.) A man speeds by another man, flipping him off after he was prevented from passing him on the freeway. 2.) A roadside waitress is asked to serve a man that drove her father to suicide. 3.) A man’s car is wrongly towed and he’s forced to pay the fine only to end up missing his daughter’s birthday party anyway. 4.) A wealthy father learns his son has hit and killed a pregnant woman and must decide if he’s going to cover up the crime. 5.) A bride learns her new husband cheated on her only minutes after saying “I do”.

Now that’s just the ground floor for each story. Each leads to some measure of outlandish behavior, most diving deep into slapstick, one specifically hewing pretty close to dark levels of reality. Oddly enough, for a film that reaches for high levels of absurdity it also presents a picture of society where restraint may most often be the best course of action, no matter how badly you believe you’ve been wronged as nothing good comes of the revenge exacted in these stories, that is outside of our enjoyment in watching them play out.

Szifron’s storytelling is wildly energetic and the end result will have you laughing out loud while at the same time raising your eyebrows as if to say “What the fuck?” It’s that kind of movie, a movie where it’s just as likely someone would come flying out of the kitchen wielding a chef’s knife and start stabbing someone as it is someone would defecate on the hood of someone else’s car.

Recently horror has taken advantage of creating anthology films with V/H/S and ABCs of Death and while they aren’t unheard of in other genres, including the much maligned Movie 43, Wild Tales makes you wish filmmakers would try it more often and not in ways such as 21 Grams or Four Rooms, but thematically more than narratively. The stories in Wild Tales have nothing narratively to do with one another other than a general acceptance they exist in the real world and that only adds to the enjoyment as it doubles down on anticipation when it comes to wondering just what the hell is going to happen next.