“Wild Tales” is a bit of an anomaly in the current movie world: an anthology that’s not a horror film. But the six short stories, linked by a theme of over-the-top, fever-dream revenge set amidst the Argentinian class system, are generally entertainingly terrifying nonetheless.
Director/writer Damián Szifron takes a light, tongue-in-cheek tone but doesn’t let that undercut the tension in each of the vignettes. He grabs attention right away with the opening chapter, set aboard a doomed flight in which the escalating fear is salved by a final blast of humor.
But it’s the third story that is most effectively suspenseful. Set on a desolate stretch of Argentinian highway, it’s a duel between two warring drivers fueled by rage and machismo.
Leonardo Sbaraglia is Diego, an Audi-driving yuppie upset by the slow, junky truck that won’t let him pass. Working-class Mario (Walter Donado) seems to take special delight in Diego’s increasing frustration. What might have ended with mere shouted profanities results in something far more horrific.
DIRECTED BY: Damian Szifron
STARRING: Dario Grandinetti, Maria Marull, Leonardo Sbaraglia
RATED: R GRADE: B
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
Almost as effective in a more low-key way is the tale of Simon (Ricardo Darín), an explosions expert, who finds himself up against the merciless bureaucracy that is the tow-truck industry in Buenos Aires. Anyone who believes their car has ever been unfairly towed will sympathize.
The powerful get comeuppance in two sketches: one of a rich man (Oscar Martinez) who inveigles his groundskeeper (Germán de Silva) to take the fall for his drunk-driving son; the other about a waitress (Julieta Zylberberg) who discovers that her rude customer is the man who caused her family so much grief when she was a child.
At times, there’s a Pedro Aldomovar-like quality to “Wild Tales.” That’s not surprising, as he’s a co-producer.
In the last of the tales, a bride (Erica Rivas) discovers her groom (Diego Gentile) has been cheating with one of the wedding guests. The most broadly comic of the six, it ultimately falls flat, though both Rivas and Gentile have a charming chemistry.
That’s too bad, as it’s a rather unceremonious end to what had been an enjoyably wild ride.