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"Wild Tales": Exuberant Pulp Anthology From Argentina 

Wednesday, Mar 4 2015
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A cornucopia of comeuppance, this exuberant pulp anthology from Argentine writer-director Damián Szifrón would like to point out how ready and willing humans still are to act like animals. Higher-level intelligence isn't necessarily prioritized in Szifrón's instinct-driven plots and prowling camera moves, but he sure knows how to get the blood pumping. The tales include a perhaps deservedly unlucky assembly of airplane passengers; a dish of revenge best served at a late-night diner; a bribery spiral spinning out of control from a drunken rich kid's hit-and-run; an elaborate road-rage duel that'll be the envy of Tarantino; a demolitionist getting his own blow-up button pushed by parking-enforcement bureaucracy; and one catastrophically tacky wedding. Sprucing up the nihilism-lite of 1980s horror and vigilante flicks, any given segment has all the slick bluster of a Breaking Bad episode, but without the backstory and audience investment. So there's not much genuine catharsis to be had here, and the characters, though well-acted and well-adorned with production values, flatten out quickly into base types. Szifrón certainly has a knack for agitating our primal vindictive urges, but his gallows humor seems increasingly forced, and payback being a bitch isn't an excuse for a movie being predictable.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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