An ex-con’s attempts to start over leads him back to where he doesn’t want to go in this very good drama from filmmaker Jim Taihuttu.
Having been released from prison, Majid, a Moroccan-born Dutchman wants nothing more but to go straight. However, the temptations of pulling small acts of crime, such as busting windows and stealing motorcycles, have gotten to him. Majid is shunned by his father for his actions and tends to be late to the flower auction, where he works, which nearly lands him in hot water with his probation officer. However, Majid soon finds an outlet when a co-worker tells him of a kickboxing school run by coach Ben.
Majid, who has the skills, proves himself to Ben when he defeats a local and promising kickboxer for a tournament. Chosen to replace the man he defeated, Majid lets his temper get the best of him and loses out on the tournament prize. While Ben decides to help Majid focus his mind and control his temper, he gets the attention of Turkish mob boss Hakan, who makes an offer to hire him as an enforcer. At first refusing, Majid ultimately decides to take on the job as it will help him take care of his suffering mother. While he seeks an escape by visiting his terminally ill brother Hamza and rekindling his romance with on-again, off-again girlfriend Tessa, Majid soon learns of a thin line between making his life for the better and making his life for the worse and it is his actions that will ultimately decide his fate.
From filmmaker Jim Taihuttu comes this interesting film that somewhat brings to mind an influence of Martin Scorsese. The film can be said to meld themes seen in Scorsese’s Raging Bull and Goodfellas in terms of how a young man’s attempts to go straight after a prison term go sour when he is forced to basically work for a high ranking mobster and finds himself in the temptations of having money yet still feeling a sense of apprehension.
Marwan Kenzari is great in the role of the tortured soul Majid, who wants to be a good guy but his actions truly show he is an anti-hero rather than a hero. From his opening scene, in which he and best in which he steals bikes with friend Adil to resorting to beating up someone who has eyes for his girlfriend Tessa, Majid can be viewed somewhat as selfless. However, there are a few things that show a more good-natured side of the character. They are the hospital visits with his terminally ill brother, who is truly like a sage to his brother with advice and his passion for kickboxing. While it is clear his father wants nothing to do with him, his mother suffers through the whole ordeal and his little brother somewhat wants to be like Majid, but Majid doesn’t want his little brother to follow the path he has.
Chems Eddine Amar plays Majid’s friend Adil as the typical screwup whom Majid has to somewhat bail out when needed and it even tires him to a point in a very pivotal scene in the third act. Bo Maerten does pretty well as Tessa, Majid’s on-off girlfriend who works as a hostess and is clearly involved in some extracurricular activities much to the chagrin of our lead character. Raymond Thiery’s Ben is perhaps the last hope of Majid having any dignity as Ben wants the same thing as the troubled Majid: for his kickboxing protege to go legit. Finally, Cahit Ölmez’s Hakan is somewhat reminiscent of perhaps Paul Cicero, the character played by Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas or even Remo Gaggi, the character played by Pasquale Cajano in Casino. He doesn’t really get involved yet makes sure that business is getting done somehow.
Wolf is a very intricate look at one man’s attempts to change his life but succumbs to the temptations of money and power, driven by a very good performance by lead actor Marwan Kenzari. Fans of martial arts films will not be disappointed in the few kickboxing scenes of the film as well.
WFG RATING: B+
IFC Midnight and XYZ Films presents a Habbekrats production. Director: Jim Taihuttu. Producer: Julius Ponten. Writer: Jim Taihuttu. Cinematography: Lennart Verstegen. Editing: Wouter van Luijn
Cast: Marwan Kenzari, Chems Eddine Amar, Bo Maerten, Raymond Thiery, Cahit Ölmez, Nasrdin Dchar.