Movie Review: Unfit for 'Wild Dogs'

I don't know what's more repugnant: that Lior Ashkenazi castrates Alon Abutbul, or that he castrates him in a Sheraton hotel room labeled 1948.

October 18, 2007 13:54
Movie Review: Unfit for 'Wild Dogs'

wild dogs 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

WILD DOGS Minus 1,948 stars Directed by Arnon Zadok. Written by Assi Dayan. Hebrew title: Rak Klavim Razim Hofshi. About 120 min. In Hebrew. If your idea of a good time is to watch Ayelet Zurer, one of Israel's most appealing actresses, get gang raped and have her face beaten to a bloody pulp, then chances are, you're as sick as the people who made Wild Dogs and are in for a treat. The old joke explains that bad movies aren't released - they escape, so Wild Dogs hit theaters this week all over Israel. This isn't a review, but a warning: Do not see this movie. If you are anything other than a sadistic misogynist, its violence against women (and men, for that matter) will disgust you and fill you with anger at those who conjured up this meaningless, mean-spirited and cynical attempt to conflate Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories (which is mentioned in a subplot) with a deep nihilism, rage and perverse hatred of women that this movie seems to assert has permeated all strata of Israeli society. I have been a movie critic for over 10 years, and don't have a problem with films that feature sex and violence, but no movie I can remember has bothered me or made me as angry as this one. And I'm not the only one. I ran into an American producer at the Haifa Film Festival, where Wild Dogs premiered, and the producer, who is a couple of years older than I and has undoubtedly seen even more movies, half-jokingly suggested setting up a support group for people who've sat through Wild Dogs. You can blame it all on Arnon Zadok, the actor-turned-director who starred in Beyond the Walls, and actor/director Assi Dayan - two well-respected names in the Israeli film industry, at least until now. Any attempt to describe the plot will make the movie seem more coherent and professional and less truly ugly than it actually is, but I'll try. Wild Dogs is basically about how we have been corrupted by the Occupation and are all either crazed druggie-pimp-rapists or self-absorbed yuppies who ignore the crazed druggie-pimp-rapists at our peril. Lior Ashkenazi and Ayelet Zurer - gifted actors who should have known better than to appear in this mess - play a Tel Aviv couple that seems to have it all. He's a successful lawyer, while she's an earnest social worker fiercely devoted to her clients. But there is trouble in paradise: While Ashkenazi did reserve duty in the territories, he saw a friend of his murder a Palestinian and is now being asked to testify against this friend in an inquest. While he feels for his colleague (played by Yiftach Klein), he insists that he will tell the truth. But then the friend's well-connected family threatens to ruin him if he does, and although he ignores their threats, he is clearly worried. The main plot, however, involves Zurer's work with the Siton family - a down-and-out clan living in a slum. They have a beautiful young daughter, played by Neta Garty (starlets in Israel have to fight tooth and nail for roles, but Garty can do better than this trash). Garty works in a textile factory not far from home, staffed by Jewish Israeli girls (I'm no expert on the labor market, but this doesn't strike me as terribly plausible). She doesn't seem to know that with her rail-thin body and big smile, she could easily get a job in a North Tel Aviv café or office. Instead, her only way out seems to be with the crazed pimp-rapist played by yet another name actor, Alon Abutbul. As she walks from the factory to her destitute family through the trash-filled streets, Abutbul and his sinister cronies follow her in a car while Abutbul makes all kinds of promises about what a wonderful life she can have with him. She resists his pressure, but her friend goes along with him, only to be drugged and gang-raped. When Garty discovers this, does she call the police? No, she calls her social worker, Zurer. Zurer, in a move so dumb that social workers should file a class-action suit against the filmmakers for portraying them as idiots, goes to the house to rescue the friend but then inexplicably stays behind alone. After she too is savagely attacked, she commits suicide. Ashkenazi, who until then has been portrayed as an unfailingly gentle man who interrupts an important business meeting to give Garty (who is staying at their apartment to avoid Abutbul) complicated instructions on how to make tomato sauce from scratch (he cooks - he's a New Man), turns into an avenging savage. I don't know what's more repugnant: that he castrates Abutbul, or that he castrates him in a Sheraton hotel room clearly labeled with the number "1948." If you've read this far, you deserve a pop quiz for your suffering. So here goes: A rapist gets castrated in a hotel room numbered 1948. This symbolizes: a) How contemporary Israeli society has become so tainted with the evil of the Occupation and has betrayed the dream of the country's founders so profoundly that here is no choice but for it to emasculate itself b) That the Occupation corrupts even gentle, sensitive lawyers who make tomato sauce from scratch and turns them into sadistic killing machines who sexually mutilate their victims with glee c) That crazed pimp-rapists who live on the fringes of society are evil because of the Occupation, even though said pimp-rapists have presumably not served in the army d) That the public relations manager at the Sheraton should have read the script before allowing the Wild Dogs crew to film in the hotel e) That the filmmakers behind this movie are so cynical that they revel in scenes of extended sexual violence against women, then use touches like the "1948" number in order to try to mask their misogyny in a cloak of political commentary f) That you should avoid all movies by Arnon Tzadok and Assi Dayan in the future I'd love to give you the answer, but I can't, probably because I'm so tainted and corrupt, I've lost my power of reason. Just e-mail the the filmmakers with your guess at their Website, Maybe they'll give you a coffee mug or a T-shirt with the film poster printed on it. The poster is just about the only thing about the film that isn't revolting. Good luck.

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