Big Bad Wolves

The 2013 Foyle Film Festival gets off to a thrilling start with the Quentin Tarantino-tipped Israeli revenge flick

Derry~Londonderry's 26th Foyle Film Festival opens with the Irish première of Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves in the Brunswick Moviebowl.

Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, it's the story of a social pariah suspected of the inconceivable torture, murder and decapitation of several children, an out for blood and oh so very vengeful father, and a police officer who decides to take the law into his own hands.

With the aforementioned subject matter in mind, it's easy to understand why some might find Big Bad Wolves a difficult watch. But the 110 minutes are made utterly enthralling by the most absurd black humour. Big Bad Wolves goes from being a thriller with a pinch of black comedy to something much more interesting.

The opening scene sees two young girls and a young boy playing hide and go seek. The music is so loud that I can almost feel my chair shake, and the fact that the sequence is depicted in slow motion only works to heighten the sense of dread.

When one of the girls and the young boy attempt to find the other girl, they discover a solitary red shoe – the girl has vanished. It's a tremendous opening few frames, but alas Big Bad Wolves doesn't quite deliver on this early promise.

Most of the action is shot in a basement. In this contained environment, the scenes develop almost like a play, and the exchanges between the police officer, the suspected child murderer and the vengeful father are toe curling and laugh out loud funny at the same time.

The grief experienced after the death of a child must be a pain like no other, but when a child is tortured and murdered – well, only the vengeful father can fully understand. What happens next is macabre and discomforting to say the least, yet Big Bad Wolves somehow manages to be hilariously funny at the same time. It is an interesting and alluring film.

Both good qualities, of course, but sometimes Aharon Keshales' and Navot Papushado's vision feels too derivative and predictable. The plot development is at times so utterly obvious that after 10 minutes you could predict what is going to happen half way through.

Plotholes are plenty, too. Religious Studies teacher Dror (played brilliantly by Rotem Keinan) is the prime suspect in the murders of the children, but his complicity is never explained. A mysterious Arab on horseback appears twice in the film. For what reason? As the end credits roll, I remain stumped.

But these are minor criticisms. Keinan's performance as suspected paedophile Dror is fantastic, and the movie also boasts strong displays from Lior Ashkenazi as loose canon police officer Miki, and Tzahi Grad as the vengeful father of one of the murderer's victims.

Keshales and Papushado are quite at ease with their movie, and this shines through when they opt to reference everything from The Goonies – there is a scene towards the end of the film where Miki is left with no choice but to ride a child's bicycle, which is reminiscent of a similar scene in the classic 1980s American caper involving Josh Brolin's Brand – and Reservoir Dogs. (Fittingly, Quentin Tarantino has given this film the thumbs up.)

The Foyle Film Festival doesn't stop with Big Bad Wolves. Later this evening, Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons will introduce his documentary Trashed at 7pm in the Brunswick Moviebowl – a meticulous examination of the global waste problem which sees Irons travel the length and breadth of the globe in search of a solution.

The Ulster Orchestra will provide live music at a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in the Venue at Ebrington on Friday evening, while on the same night, Hollywood actor, playwright and musician Sam Shepard will take part in a special Q&A session after a screening of Wim Wenders' Paris Texas in the Brunswick Moviebowl.

There's also an evening with Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and Olympics Opening Ceremony writer Frank Cottrell Boyce in St. Columb's Hall on Saturday evening, and the festival will close on Sunday with the Northern Ireland première of Saving Mr. Banks, which stars both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

The Foyle Film Festival runs in venues across Derry~Lononderry until November 29. Visit the festival website for information.