Fairy tales often provide rich fodder for films, whether they be the fantastical offerings such as The Brothers Grimm, or more down to earth thrillers like Big Bad Wolf a/k/a Huff, which is inspired by the Three Little Pigs.
Charlie O'Connell, somewhat less famous brother of Jerry O'Connell, stars as Huff, a mildly deranged drug dealer, who is planning to pull off a big score and run away to Mexico with his mistress Laci (Natasha Alam). His wife Lorelei (Elina Madison) might object to the plan, if she would pay much attention to anything other than dancing for money and ignoring Huff's creepy advances on her three teen daughters. (Huff is not their father.) These three, who play the part of the three pigs here, are the oldest and most responsible Brixi (Marie Bollinger), love struck Styx (Jenna Stone) and the childish Shay (Elly Stefanko).
Huff stashes a bag with around $100,000 "borrowed" from Laci's ex-husband, with the intention of buying a large shipment of drugs and unloading the product in a few days. Lorelei has other plans. After becoming disgusted with one of his sexual escapades, she finds the money, and gives it to her daughters, telling them to run away and find a better life. When Huff discovers the missing money, just minutes after his suppliers arrive to demand payment, he loses his tenuous grip on his rage. Things go downhill rapidly.
The film moves forward methodically, if too often at the expense of characters acting unrealistically or a little too foolishly to be believed. There are rages, murders, torture, beatings and axe attacks. The intensity is turned up to eleven almost from the first minutes of the film. O'Connell is (for the most part) realistically crazy and menacing, though he slips a little into self-parody a few times, going just a few degrees too far. Having said that, he's more effective than I would have expected. The acting overall is better than average, with good levels of intensity and commitment from all involved.
The problem with Big Bad Wolf isn't the performances, it's the writing. As I said, events unfold at a good pace, but things work a bit too conveniently at times. Why, for instance, does Shay walk within easy sight of their home when escaping, even though she knows that Huff is violent and assuredly angry with her, not to mention that Brixi counseled her against just such a course. Ditto with Styx, who went immediately to her boyfriend's even when warned not to. Pair that with such things as Brixi accidentally falling down a hill and conveniently knocking herself unconscious for a convenient few minutes as the action moves forward, and one wishes that the writer had spent a bit more time making sure that things flowed logically.
The film also comes off as quite misogynistic. I certainly don't believe that director Paul Morrell or O'Connell or anyone else involved hates women. But there are an awful lot of molestations and beatings and murders of women here, and it feels a bit creepy. Of course, it's quite possible that this is exactly the effect that Morrell is going for, and I'm complaining about a feature, not a bug. Keep in mind, however, that the film depicts a lot of violence against and contempt for women, mostly from Huff.
This is something of a scattered film. There are good things here. The production values are high, the acting intense and mostly effective, and the effects are very well executed. But the story is a bit too slapdash to deliver the goods dramatically. That unevenness prevents me from higher praise. This one is recommended, with some reservations.
Video is 2.35:1 widescreen, and generally looks pretty good. The colors are bright and rich, and even though some mild aliasing is visible from time to time, it doesn't detract from the experience.
Audio is available in Dolby digital 5.1 channel and 2 channel, and sounds pretty good either way. No hiss or other problem can be heard, and the dialogue is always audible. There's a lot of great music in this film, and it is highlighted effectively. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
There are a couple of small extras. A behind the scenes featurette is included, with interviews of O'Connell, Alam and Clint Howard, who had a small part. There's also a better than decent trailer for the film.
Big Bad Wolf is an uneven thriller, with a surprisingly good performance by Charlie O'Connell, great blood effects, and an interesting concept. The plot isn't as tight as it could be, and sometimes leaves the viewer scratching his head at the way characters act. This is definitely a film to see and think about, but it's not as good as it could have been.