When I learned that two time Academy Award winner Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), went so far as to praise the movie “Big Bad Wolves” as the best film of 2013, I knew I had to see it. He is one of my favorite directors, so when I saw that the film was available for instant streaming on Netflix, I sat down the other night and watched it. I had very little knowledge of the film, prior to viewing it, and when it was finished, I am glad that I hadn’t come across that much information on the movie’s plot. Written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the captivating film comes from Israel. The movie is parts dark comedy, crime, and thriller, and has a runtime of 110 minutes.
The catalyst for the film begins with an innocent child’s game of hide and seek, amongst three children, two girls and a boy. Innocence, however, soon turns to tragedy, with the disappearance of one of the little girls who had been hiding in a closet of an abandoned building the children were playing near. After the girl’s friend leaves the building to find her hiding spot, and the boy is shown counting, while standing in front of a tree, another figure is shown in the hallway. The viewer does not get to see the face, or any other telling characteristics, of who is walking toward the room where the girl is hiding. When the other two children return to the room and open the closet, their friend is missing; all that is left, is one single shoe.
The next scene depicts four police officers dragging a man into an abandoned warehouse. The man’s name is Dror (Rotem Keinan). He is a religious studies teacher, and the prime suspect in the disappearance of the girl. No concrete evidence supporting Dror’s guilt has been found, and during the entire film, he steadfastly maintains his innocence. The only thing the police have on Dror, is the eyewitness testimony of a child, who thinks she saw him at the scene of the crime. At the warehouse, the police attempt to beat a confession of guilt out of him. In addition to fists and kicks, the phone book is used as a weapon. Unfortunately for the officers involved, a teenager happens to also be at the location, and captures the entire incident on his cell phone camera. By the end of the day, the brutality committed against the suspect by the police has gone viral for the world to view. The strange thing is, that Dror doesn’t file a lawsuit against the officers in question, nor does he seek the help of the media to bring to justice those officers who have violated the laws they have sworn to uphold. This is where the first seed of suspicion as to the character’s guilt is planted, but the film, which is cleverly written, made me as a viewer, change my mind several different times regarding the validity of Dror’s guilt or innocence. When Tsvika (Dvir Benedek), the police officer in charge of those doing the interrogating, calls to find out what is going on, he wants the officers to immediately stop harming the suspect. Micki (Lior Ashkenazi), is convinced of Dror’s guilt, but per Tsvika’s orders, he has to allow him to go free.
A short time later, while Micki is being reprimanded by his boss, an anonymous phone call comes into the police station, alerting them to where they can find the missing girl. The girl’s body is discovered in a wooded area; most of her body anyway. The girl’s head is missing – it is the same method of killing that has been used in several other murders. At the scene of the crime, Micki is told by Tsvika, that he has been demoted to the traffic division, however, after the beating video reaches his desk, he tells Micki that he is temporarily off of the police force. Dror’s students have, by this point, seen the video as well, prompting one student to draw a very unflattering depiction, and others to write derogatory remarks in place of answers on their exam papers. Dror doesn’t have to worry long about the behavior of his class, because Principal Meir (Ami Weinberg), comes to speak to him about the phone calls he has been receiving from the parents of the students, encouraging Meir to fire Dror . Simultaneously, Micki, now free from the constraints of being a police officer, is able to pursue Dror, the way he wants to.
At a park, Micki attempts to capture Dror for an interrogation, but Dror sees him coming in enough time to run away. Chasing after Dror, Micki eventually catches him, on a street where a truck is blocking a path to escape. Knocking Dror out, Micki drives him to the woods, and makes the suspect dig a hole; the threat of death hangs in the air. Micki asks questions, and each time he feels Dror doesn’t answer honestly, he puts a bullet into the chamber of his gun, and fires at Micki, not knowing if he will actually be firing a bullet or not.
The first two shots are empty air; after loading the third bullet into his gun, and about to fire, Dror thinks he has been granted a reprieve. A man comes up from behind Micki and knocks him out with a shovel. Dror might think he has been sent a guardian angel, but he is completely wrong. The man, Gidi (Tzahi Grad),who has saved Dror from Micki’s gun, is none other than the grief stricken father of the girl who was murdered. He has also been following Dror, taking pictures of him, and plotting revenge. Revenge that is based on the information of the police report he was able to obtain about what happened to not only his daughter, before she was murdered, but the other little girls as well.
Writing more about the film from that moment forward, could potentially give too much away, and ruin the experience for those of you who have not seen it. The question I kept asking myself while watching the movie was: Is this teacher really guilty of the crimes he is accused of, or is Micki, to a degree, and the father, fully committed, to seeing a vile crime be answered for at all costs, despite any sort of concrete evidence or a confession? Credit must be paid to the three leads of the film, who give very convincing performances. Each brings his character to cinematic life, and the characters are written in such a way that doesn’t, for one second, make one feel they are stereotypical. The dialogue is another excellent aspect of the film; never did I feel it was forced, nor did I sense a false note being spoken at anytime. The music by Haim Frank Ilfman, also helps to drive the story forward, and adds to the overall tension during certain scenes. This is a film that, while there is not an overwhelming amount of gore, has certain scenes of intense violence, that might be too much for those of you who are generally squeamish. In closing, I very much liked how the film kept me in the dark as to the truth of what really happened until the final closing minutes, as well as the haunting last scene.