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Fantastic Fest: Wolf Delivers Violent Charm

Short Review: In a bleak picture of life in the Netherlands, Wolf is equal parts Grand Theft Auto and Rocky. A man’s desire to do right by his family after being released from prison is put to the test as he tries to be an honorable man while surrounding himself with people who will drag him into the world of organized crime. Solid performances and terrific fight scenes are the highlights of this black-and-white assault on your tolerance for violence.

Marwan Kenzari gives a stunning performance as Majid, the second son of a Moroccan immigrant to the Netherlands. Having recently been released on parole, he is trying to make ends meet by working in a warehouse during the day and committing smash-and-grab robberies at night. He cares about his family, especially his little brother, with whom he now shares a room. His family’s living conditions are impoverished because of mounting health bills brought on by the eldest son’s cancer. Majid wants a better life.

The one skill in his favor are his fists. A trained martial artist, Majid hopes to train with a respected gym near his home to compete in fight tournaments. His skills are also noticed by a local Turkish mob. As the head of that family begins to allow Majid to get closer, he’s gotta figure out what he will and won’t let himself get away with. With a cousin whispering in his ear to take the easy money and a father that feels nothing but contempt for him, Majid has few places to turn for any real guidance.

The character Kenzari has created is as charismatic as he is brutal. You’re disgusted when he slaps his girlfriend around, but then you don’t entirely blame her for sticking around because you hope, for the briefest of moments, he can be saved. You watch him perform many despicable acts in the movie, but along the way it’s all you can do to not root for him to make it out a winner, or at least alive.

Wolf is an incredibly violent film that doesn’t celebrate the shocking images it conveys but coldly and brutally snaps you back to why you fear and oddly respect a criminal mind. In the same way the fates of Walter White and Jax Teller and the joys of Grand Theft Auto are captivating the country, Majid is equally enthralling as a thug with eyes on a crown.

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