“As the new kid on the Competition block, Argentina’s Damián Szifron wasn’t taking any chances,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve. “His Wild Tales consists of six unrelated shorts, none of which lasts long enough to wear out its welcome; each features a grabber of a concept, some amusing complications, and a final sting. In theory, all six are revenge-centered, but thematic continuity is minimal, and they work primarily as self-contained units…. What Wild Tales is doing in Competition is anybody’s guess, as it’s far too lightweight and frivolous to merit any sort of awards consideration… In any case, it makes for a fine introduction to a heretofore little-known filmmaker.”
“We’ll be hearing more from this guy, mark my words,” declares the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd. “The farcical mayhem also has a social dimension, its roots planted firmly in class conflict, frustration with government bureaucracy, and a general disdain for privilege. At its core, however, Wild Tales is basically an E.C. Comics sampler, minus the horror but not the wicked irony or karmic justice.”
“Barely suppressed rage simmers through all of these short movies,” writes the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “Szifrón has taken some influence from Pedro Almodóvar (who in fact co-produces the movie), perhaps something from the Dionysiac wildness of Emir Kusturica and even the tensions of Spielberg’s Duel and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. One story is in fact very similar to the plot premise of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2008 movie Three Monkeys. As one divorce lawyer says to Ricardo Darín’s character: ‘I see violence all over the place.’ In this movie, violence is indeed everywhere.”
“The film jumps straight in with the briefest of its stories, about a group of strangers on a plane who discover they have a connection to each other,” writes Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. “It’s immediately sly, well-written and funny, and has a killer punchline that surely marks it as one of the more arresting openings of the year. Five more stories follow from there, following a waitress flirting with taking revenge on the loan shark that led to her father’s suicide, a road rage incident that escalates beyond all reasonable proportion, a demolitions expert whose life implodes thanks to a parking ticket, a wealthy family’s attempt to cover up a hit and run by persuading their groundskeeper to take the fall, and a wedding that, even with many prior contenders, has a good claim to being the most disastrous ever put on screen.”
“The director keeps one-upping himself with escalating mayhem that had the audience roaring with approval,” reports Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com.
“While not all the episodes are equally successful, and most are variations on formulas seen elsewhere, the overall enjoyment rarely flags,” adds Variety‘s Jay Weissberg.
“The cast is strong throughout, and the good-looking film is crafted in high style,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. Plus, there’s “a terrific spaghetti Western-flavored score from Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla.”
“Szifron’s film is perhaps one skit too long,” suggests John Bleasdale at CineVue. “Regardless, Wild Tales is an inventive, occasionally hysterical ride.” Writing for Screen, Fionnuala Halligan agrees that this “one-man portmanteau of innovative and increasingly scathing social comedy is brilliantly conceived and confidently delivered.”
“While adhering to an internal logic that makes each punchline land with a satisfying burst of glee, the movie nevertheless stems from genuine fury aimed a broken world,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “It’s the rare storytelling endeavor that manages to be laughably absurd and profoundly tragic at the same time.”
Update, 5/18: “This is dark comedy served all the way dark,” writes HitFix‘s Drew McWeeney, “and I was hooked from the moment the first segment ended. I’ve got to commend Szifron for just how big a punchline he packs into that first sequence, because you realize at that point that anything can happen in these stories, and he’s not afraid to follow a story to an apocalyptic ending.”
Update, 5/19: It’s the “closest I’ve come to oh my God, oh my God at the festival, writes Wesley Morris at Grantland. “It’s O. Henry phoning in a terrorist threat. The pre-credit opening sequence ends with a freeze-frame of two characters and an airplane. It’s not overstating things to say that image is the most exhilarating pause in the action since Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer leapt out of a diner banquette at the beginning of Pulp Fiction. It’s an image that leaves you charged and ready to see where Szifron is gonna take you. The answer is pretty much where you want the movies to take you—somewhere new and shocking.”
Update, 5/21: “The only thing Wild Tales could use is a bit more connectivity between its segments to give it more of a sense as a whole,” writes Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed, “but that’s a minor quibble. It’s the most purely enjoyable movie in the main Cannes competition so far.”
“Wild Tales is loose-limbed, rowdy and exhilarating,” agrees the Voice‘s Stephanie Zacharek. “The most effective sequence, and the one that cuts the deepest, is the final one, in which a bride (Erica Rivas) discovers her groom (Diego Gentile) has cheated on her—the proof drops during the wedding celebration, and after that, chaos reigns. There’s blood, broken glass, and sloppy gobs of cake—and also an unexpected note of wary tenderness. The line between love and hate is perilously thin, and Szifron walks that tightrope deftly.”
Updates, 5/22: Scott Foundas in the first Film Comment roundtable: “Some people have been comparing it to Dino Risi or Vittorio De Sica, all of which is completely out of proportion with what the movie actually is. I also personally feel it makes you think a lot of Amores Perros, which did the same kind of thing for Mexico but with much more skill and much more complexity. I mean, this movie, by the time it got around to the fourth episode, I just felt exhausted by it.” FC editor Gavin Smith: “It’s interesting that you say that because I was sitting next to you and you were laughing heartily. Though I fundamentally agree with you—it’s flashy, skillful filmmaking, but I think it’s very superficial, and by the end it really lost me.”
“The biggest problem with Wild Tales is that Szifrón never pushes [the film’s] elements into truly transgressive territory, content as he is to resolve matters in tidy and, more often than not, conservative fashion,” writes Budd Wilkins at the House Next Door. “As in the episode with the engineer turned terrorist, where restitution of the family unit supersedes revolutionary politics, it’s clear that Szifrón lacks Almodóvar’s truly confrontational sensibility.”
Update, 5/23: These stories “are smart, tart, beautifully performed mini-epics of grievance escalating to a kind of sanctified madness,” writes Mary Corliss for Time. “Wild Tales deserves Cannes’ Screenplay prize, and your delighted patronage when Sony Pictures Classics opens this in the U.S.”