Wild Tales Damián Szifrón

In the absurd opener to Damián Szifrón’s six-episode collection of scabrous stories, the passengers and crew of an airplane coincidentally discover that they share a connection with and dislike of the same individual—who happens to be the pilot. It’s a hilarious worst-case-scenario of comeuppance—what could happen if you were left entirely at the mercy of a person you’d wronged—but it’s only the first in a series of tales that’s about more than just throwing up in your hands in despair at a collapsing nation.

Szifrón made his bones directing must-see TV in Argentina, where Wild Tales whomped Hollywood heavyweights at the box office. The short-form suits him, freeing him from the pressure of sustaining the credibility of any of the stories’ tight turns: two men road-rage to the death; another retaliates explosively over a parking ticket grievance; a waitress seeks retribution on a murderous customer from her past. But rather than being straight-up Tales from the Crypt grotesques, these vignettes are tinged with class consciousness and shadowed by the fallacy that revenge is empowering.

These variations on a theme crystallize around the grimmest of the stories, in which a rich family covers up a son’s hit-and-run crime, though Szifrón is hardly taking a stand or breaking any new ground. If anything, in fact, his final yarn about a spectacularly derailed Jewish wedding suggests that at heart he’s not so much a payback-lover as a pragmatic romantic.