Common themes of violence and vengeance are deliciously explored in the wildly-entertaining Argentine anthology film, Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales). Despite a strong start, the film unsuccessfully fails to deliver on its considerable promise.
The most successful film to come out of Argentina since the heralded 2009 classic, The Secret in Their Eyes, this Oscar-nominated film still injects a strong volt of excitement for several of its interesting perspectives on the human condition.
The highlight of the film is the short story, title “Pasternak.” A simple random conversation on a crowded airplane leads to several similarities and, finally, a shared sense of dread when everyone on-board discovers that there is a price to pay for crossing the wrong man. Complete with stunning visual flourishes, the opening of Wild Tales is the most memorable on-screen opening since the 2013’s opening in the Oscar-winning Foreign Language film, The Great Beauty.
The remaining “tales” fluctuate between solid, ironic stories and some that reach for something greater but feel under-developed and unsatisfying. Another highlight is the odyssey of two drivers on a lonely road who get into a deadly game of one-ups-man-ship in “El más fuerte” (The Strongest).
When one driver disrespects another, it leads to disastrous results. The tire on the car of the driver named Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia) goes flat and a dangerous game of survival begins when the offended driver, Mario (lturralde Walter Donado) catches up with Diego. As the petrified Diego hides out in his locked vehicle, Mario goes to town on Diego’s expensive sports car, bashing out his car windows, and urinating and defecating on his prized vehicle before the tables are turned on the enraged attacker, Mario. Despite an opportunity to escape, Diego’s pride leads him on a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that leads to embarrassing results for both men.
In “Bombita” (Little Bomb), a good man, who is simply pushed too far, extracts much-needed payback using his “special skills.” After repeatedly getting his car ticketed and towed, the inconvenience causes friction between his wife and child, so Simón Fisher (Ricardo Darín) takes matters into his own hands. Constantly getting the run-around, and with his wife threatening to leave him, Simón is pushed to his breaking point. Let’s just say that a demolition expert has the potential to blow-up the spot – literally!
The institution of marriage and the true meaning of wedding vows are severely put to the test in “Hasta que la muerte nos separe” (Until death do us part). An overly suspicious bride, Romina (Érica Rivas), puts two and two together when she suspects her husband Ariel (Diego Gentile) cheated on her with a guest at their reception. Heartbroken, Romina goes to the roof to clear her head and, in a fateful moment, decides to extract revenge with an unsuspecting member of the kitchen staff, making love to him on the spot. When her horrified husband witnesses the betrayal, Romina vows to sleep with every man she can, drive him crazy and take him for his considerable fortune.
Once back at their reception, matters go from bad to worse as the bewildered Ariel witnesses Romina beatdown his sidepiece, destroy their wedding cake before the two come to a new understanding – in front of their confused wedding guests.
Written and directed by Damián Szifrón and co-produced by Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, High Heels, Volver and The Skin I Live In), Wild Tales is a cohesive, inspired work that is just a couple of short stories away from being a classic. It also contrasts the issue of class and privilege as each story deals with the inevitable comeuppance that each character must endure.
A very good anthology film that flirts with greatness, Wild Tales is an ambitious experiment that resonates with everyday experiences, richly weaved into a delightful cinematic tapestry that unfortunately frays at the end leaving viewers wanting.