Ben (Pinassi) is a despicable misogynistic failed thief who happens to come across Zelda (Townsend), a prostitute who used to be a child actor. What the pair has in common is utter depression and desire to commit suicide. Neither can actually bring themselves to do it, though, even though they want to make up for their past indiscretions. They bond together and attempt to do one final act of goodness - finding and saving a young girl who has been kidnapped by a gang of sex traffickers.
Together they drive across the country - with a pair of corpses in the boot of the car that Zelda neglects to mention - even attempting to get jobs to pay their way. Even that small part of the plan doesn’t go right as Ben doesn’t seem to be able to deal with people very well and Zelda has trouble remembering who ordered what. He’s a complete misogynist and, in fact, the first quarter of the film is spent showing us how bad and abhorrent he actually is. For a large part of the movie, he’s the kind of guy any reasonable person would avoid like the plague, offending with every action and utterance. However, it’s this precise reason that the pairing of Ben and Zelda works. He’s an arsehole and she’s a damaged soul but together they get along in a co-dependant way that depression sufferers often do and as we get to know a little bit more about them, we truly end up caring about the repulsive Ben.
Wolf Mother is very stylishly shot - almost too deliberately ‘cool’. At times it feels like a True Romance if it had been written by David Lynch. The Tarantino similarities don’t end there. The soundtrack is wall-to-wall hip tracks (although not of the type that people are familiar with) and the climax is among the bloodiest seen in a non-horror film for some time. Writer/director Carlson isn’t riffing on familiarity, though. There’s a unique flavour at play here, even if it’s bitter tasting.
Ben narrates the story noir-style (all the while being as offensive as possible), and once the pair goes on the road looking for the gang who took the girl there’s more than a touch of Bonnie and Clyde to Wolf Mother, but despite this, it’s not a typical underworld/criminal thriller. There are deeper subjects at play here. Be warned, though, they are dark and troubling themes, which are handled fantastically by all involved. The two leads are compelling and entirely convincing - particularly Pinassi, who even manages to make us care for such a reprehensible character - and Tom Sizemore makes a weighty cameo in an intensely powerful scene.
Wolf Mother is a slickly-made, powerful film about regret, secrets, and redemption. It won’t be for everybody and will certainly offend many with the frank portrayal of a sordid and disturbing world and can be uncomfortable viewing, but as a dark road movie about characters driven to the edge, it’s a compelling watch.
WOLF MOTHER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ERIK PETER CARLSON / STARRING: TOM SIZEMORE, KEVIN PINASSI, NAJARRA TOWNSEND, MARY CAREY, MARIA OLSEN / RELEASE DATE: TBC (UK), OUT NOW(US)