Wild Tales

★★★½
Implausible, violent, and hysterical.
Movie Review #1,015

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Sony Pictures Classics
Comedy, Drama, Thriller
2 hours, 2 minutes
Rated R (violence, language and brief sexuality)
Released February 20, 2015
Directed by Damián Szifron
Writer: Damián Szifron
Starring Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, and Erica Rivas

There’s a Simpsons episode called “Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times”. It’s exactly as the title would indicate. Marge, Lisa, and Bart all take turns narrating three separate revenge stories, each one separated by a commercial break. Damián Szifron’s “Wild Tales” is sort of the same thing, except this anthology film offers twice as many tales of sweet revenge, each about three times as long and nine or ten times more outlandish.

The opening segment acts as a teaser for the rest of the film. The humor is ironic and very, very dark. These first ten minutes are set around a woman who has boarded a plane and gets talking with the passenger next to her. First we discover that he’s a music critic. Then we discover that her ex-boyfriend was a musician for some time. Then we discover that she’s sitting next to the very critic who ruined her ex-boyfriend’s career with a bad review. Slowly, we begin to realize that they’re not at all the only ones on the plane who have some affiliation with this man. Soon enough, everybody has stood up and explained how they know this one man. Finally, the scene ends when the stewardess emerges from the cockpit and announces that the plane is going to crash soon. The man who was initially just an ex-boyfriend and musician, is now a pilot who has gathered everyone who has ever done him wrong onto a plane and is trying to kill them all at once.

Some might find this sort of situation sad. If you get that reaction to this ouverture to “Wild Tales”, then turn the movie off. You don’t need or deserve to see the rest of this ingenious comedy. The movie grows funnier, more violent, and more ridiculous with every segment. Every act of vengeance here far outweighs the original infliction. The second segment involves a loan shark who stops by a restaurant where the waitress is the daughter of a man he had killed. She and the cook debate over whether to kill him, and when the waitress is too afraid to poison his food, the cook decides to go ahead and stab him to death. In the next segment, a man gets a flat tire after giving another driver the finger. The other driver turns around and breaks his windshield before taking a dump on it. Then they enter a state of guerrilla warfare, which only ends when one of them lights the gas tank on fire while they are both inside of the car. Next, a demolitions expert’s car is towed despite the fact that he has parked legally. He complains to the DMV, but they keep demanding his money and continually refuse to hear him out, so he blows up the DMV.

In one of the less interesting segments, a pregnant woman is killed in a hit-and-run by a teenager who has been smoking marijuana, and her husband swears vengeance on the kid. But the movie has hoisted itself right back on its feet again by its grand finale: the final, longest, and best segment, where a bride hazes her husband at their wedding party, after having discovered that he had cheated on her with one of her guests. This is additionally by far the most developed of the stories, insomuch that the bride, Romina (Érica Rivas), is an incredible femme fatale. The segment is outstanding over, but the real icing on the cake is the early climactic moment when she has with the kitchen janitor to get back at her husband.

The great thing about the segments in this anthology is that they’re succinct. They don’t intend on revealing a whole story. The man’s motive for crashing the plane in the first segment is never revealed, but then again, we never really inquire it. “Wild Tales” is so “wildly entertaining” because of its punchy storytelling. Every segment is the first paragraph of a news article, rather than the entirety of it, in that it gives us exactly what we want to know, and nothing more.

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