Father/Son Relationship Blues
Gambling, basketball, coming-of-age, betrayal, family and young love come together in Wolves, an intense drama featuring Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) as an English professor way over his head with gambling debts. We canít help wondering why the character he plays is so foolish. Heís blessed with a loving wife (Carla Gugino/San Andreas), a star athlete son (Taylor John Smith/Cruel Intentions) and a helpful brother (Chris Bauer/Sully). But gambling is an addiction, and it has become the most important thing in his life, even to the point of interfering in his sonís success. This father/son relationship leaves much to be desired, and both actors make the most of their scenes where the tension between them seems so real.
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints), Wolves holds our interest during the exciting basketball sequences. It also boasts realistic portrayals by key actors as well as a strong supportive performance by John Douglas Thompson (A Most Violent Year) as a former basketball star trying to help the high school student with his game. Zazie Beetz (Finding Her) also deserves recognition as the caring girlfriend. She projects a wonderful screen presence, and I hope to see her in more films.
The title refers to the sonís highly regarded high school basketball team -- and also, in my opinion, to the men taking the fatherís bets because they surround him like a wolf pack. Itís not a pretty sight. Fortunately, the film boasts first-rate acting, and we become cheerleaders for the ambitious son. We want him to win a Cornell scholarship as the result of his impressive basketball skills. But unfortunately, Wolves leaves us unsatisfied because of its predictability and strange last scene.
When gambling takes over your life,
it brings you such tremendous strife.
Wolves tells the tale of one gambler
who puts himself in great danger.
He canít stop making huge bad bets
and piling up outrageous debts.
Michael Shannon excels again
in a key role seemed made for him.
Wolves shows the toll his habit takes
on son and wife -- and their heartaches.
Other actors give fine support
in this film about high school sport.
Props for suspense and basketball
despite the movieís overall pall.
But some scenes go over the top.
And why end with an abrupt stop?
(Released by IFC Films. Not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Wolves, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.