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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Wolfpack

August 19th, 2015 by Conor ONeill Comments

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The Wolfpack (15)
Directed by: Crystal Moselle
Starring: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo & Jagadisa Angulo
Running time: 90 min

EVER walked the mean streets of New York City wearing black and sporting a Michael Myers’ mask and get sectioned? Nah, me neither. But the eldest Angulo brother has. And so for 90 minutes we’re thrown into this documentary only the US could chuck up.

Think the Devil and Daniel Johnston film was close to the bone? Well this one reaches new heights. Now jumble a Brian Jonestown massacre type demi-god, Ramones-style lack of visual individuality, some late night TV Public Broadcast Service infomercial with an artsy side and what you have is Wolfpack.            

Director Crystal Moselle’s depiction of normality turned on its side by an alcoholic, wife-beating-idealist with grand plans for his seven children is a movie that’ll shock and inspire in so many ways. A Latin American tour guide meets a North American pretty woman on the hippy trail and they fall in love. Next they plan to move to Scandinavia, the land of milk and honey as far as Oscar is concerned. Settling in New York City as a stepping-stone they procrastinate, he by refusing to work by keeping his ever burgeoning family away from the ‘drugs, philosophy and religions’ of what he sees wrong with the world; her by home schooling their seven children.

That’s the general gist. But the film’s fixation is really on the Angulo brothers. Rarely getting out of the apartment hundreds of storeys up and with the father the only one with access to the key, they live on a diet of movies, lasagne and fantasy, each indoctrinated with the simple message that ‘the world outside is nothing but danger’.

Oscar, in his first appearance on camera states: “My power is that I influence everybody.” Rest assured he does not come out well in 75% of the 90 minutes. Back to the brothers: they all look the same; long-haired, skinny kids with roughly the same features and robotic like answers leaving the audience in a spin of who’s who. Some of the best moments are of those home videos the mother filmed as they were growing up. Just naïve kids with no idea of what’s what. Jump forward 10 or 15 years and with the city that never sleeps high-rise vista you’ll find a different set of brothers.

The Michael Myers look-a-like is the first to break the rules; next the domino effect as each of his siblings follow suit and we’re lucky enough to watch them blossom and feel empathy at their failings. The father resolutely keeps drinking and watching TV. The long suffering wife and mother keeps on keeping on. We’re treated not only with home video footage, but their love of re-enactments, specialising in Tarantino’s best known flicks and The Dark Knight Returns. Guns made out of yogurt pots and cardboard, SWAT team raids, first rides on trains, seeing the ocean and almost every other first time experiences for six young men make this a fresh curiosity to grace the big screen.

If there is a criticism to be stated is it just lacks follow up. Maybe in a few years’ time we’ll get another edition of this fascinating story. Until then, if it ever happens, just sit back and watch this endearing film.

4 out of 5 Nerds

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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.

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