Wolf: A Crime Drama Of Self-Destruction

Edgar Allan Poe, in his short-story The Black Cat, describes the warped mind’s overpowering impulse to violence. This lust, when activated, rages with a meaningless but luminous intensity. He says:

One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame.

This “fiendish malevolence” is the feeling emanated by the main protagonist in Jim Taihuttu’s 2013 crime drama, Wolf. To understand the film, we must understand this irrational “fiendish malevolence” Poe talks about. Wolf wonderfully chronicles the downward spiral of a thoroughly unlikeable character; we dislike him, yet we can’t take our eyes off the screen.

Majid (Marwan Kenzari) is the son of Moroccan immigrants living in Utrecht. He is an ex-con working at a flower auction warehouse who cares little about his own life, and even less about the lives of others.

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The film begins with a startling scene on the late-night streets of Utrecht that showcases Majid and his friends’ predatory natures. He speaks amiably to a friend for a while, and then they make small talk with a couple drunk Dutchmen. And then, with little emotion and even less hesitation, they smash the glass of a storefront and steal a motorbike.

Majid’s problem is that he is a violent sociopath. His parole officer futilely tries to interest him in his own future. His father begs him to get back on the right path. He has a younger brother who genuinely looks up to him. And it is all to no avail; Majid prefers to spend his days robbing ATMs and beating up other thugs.  His one redeeming quality is that he is an incredibly talented kickboxer.

Even if he can’t see it, we know his days are numbered.

I was drawn to this film because I know so little about the European criminal underworld. In the past couple decades, European gangster films have been racking up a very impressive track record.

Nicolas Refn’s three Pusher films broke new ground in giving a stark portrayal of this world, with the Serbian character “Milo” representing immigrant organized crime in Copenhagen. Jacques Audiard’s unforgettable film Un Prophete (2007) proved that a gangster drama with an Arab protagonist could add something new to the genre.

But it would be a mistake to see Wolf as some kind of commentary on Moroccan immigration. This is not a film about the Arab immigrant experience in The Netherlands. Majid speaks Dutch to his friends, and was born in Holland. Arabic is only heard at home.

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This is a criminal character study, pure and simple; unlike Audiard’s Un Prophete, there is no sympathy shown for the main character, nor is any attempt made to probe his motivations. In Wolf, we are simply given a ring-side seat to a man’s pointless self-destruction.

In between petty crimes, Majid needs extra money to finance his cancerous brother’s medical care. At a local kickboxing gym, we discover just how good of a fighter he is, and how brutal as well. He is steered to an association with a Turkish crime boss, who obviously seeks to exploit the violent and seething Majid. The crime boss, we discover, not only promotes fights, but also masterminds armed robberies.

What we are left with is the fascinating spectacle of a brute who is unable to turn off his rages, unable to control himself, and unable to stop doing things against his own self-interest. Shot in black and white, in an apparent homage to Martin Scorcese’s Raging Bull, the film is not without flaws.

The cast features many stereotyped but necessary characters. We have Majid’s father (Abdelkrim Bahloul), who hates his son and can’t believe God has cursed him with such criminal progeny. We have the suffering mother (Baya Belal) who can do little more than pray and hide in a corner. We have Majid’s younger brother Tarik (Mohammed El Mimouni) who seems to be a good kid, and yet somehow doomed by association.

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We have Majid’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Tessa (Bo Maerten), who loves the drama and violence of being around thugs. We even have the angelic older brother Hamza (Nasrdin Dchar), who provides a welcome relief from the depravity shown on screen.

Despite some minor limitations in character development, Wolf is a compelling film, and very much worth seeing. Some critics have complained about the apparent clichés in the film, but these critics miss the point. The lives of criminals generally are already clichés.

There are usually no deep reasons why they do what they do, and those seeking such motives have read too many Charles Dickens novels. Inexplicable depravity is the order of the day. In the real world, criminality is only the unrestrained urge to satisfy the basest human desires. And this is something that Wolf does not flinch from portraying.

In short, this is a worthy addition to the catalogue of modern European crime dramas. Americans with little knowledge of the ethnic subcultures shown here can learn a great deal, as I did.

Some critics also found fault with the film’s apparent lack of an ending. I didn’t see it that way. There is an ending, and we all know what it is. The director, Jim Taihuttu, is wise enough to let us fill in the blanks on our own.

And if we’ve been paying attention, we know precisely what to fill in. Right down to the letter.

Read More: How I Avoided A False Domestic Abuse Charge

28 thoughts on “Wolf: A Crime Drama Of Self-Destruction”

    1. Doesn’t really qualify as “crime drama” but La Haine was pretty intense. Don’t know if it was dubbed. Gotta be a version with good subs floating somewhere.

  1. I had to rub my eyes cuz I couldn’t believe ROK was talking about of all things, Wolf. I have seen this movie a while back and as a fellow North American couldn’t believe someone else was also talking about it cuz you have to dig deep for these gems provided we aren’t Dutch/European.
    Isn’t it supposed to be Rotterdam instead of Utrecht?

  2. I’d like to see this movie now. From this review I can see some similarities in the main character and myself. The difference being that I haven’t slid down that hole into total animalistic/sociopathic predation yet.
    I know that I still have a conscience because I worry and sometimes fear what I could become if I lose any more hope and begin to despair.
    As society becomes more twisted and perverse it is a daily task to keep oneself from sipping it’s poison.
    I struggle a lot with the concepts of will to power vs mercy towards others.

  3. lol @fill in the blank endings. If u ask me, it’s just lazy, pretentious writing, for hacks who couldn’t come up with a decent final act. “Sopranos” anyone?

  4. Ah, Netherlands, still becoming more and more tolerant of these vermin. From the way you build your sentences, I assume you’re also Dutch (“order of the day”). You should also, as a redpilled male, see the growing discontent about these rats among native Dutchmen. Never even being stopped by police, out of fear of racism, yet statistically committing most of the crimes, etc. May I ask your opinion, possibly in Dutch, on the current state of our legal system?

    1. Steve: I’m actually not Dutch. I tried to steer away from social commentary in this film review. Although it might be impossible to separate the film from the subject matter. All I can say is that the “new wave” crime film (for lack of a better word) is now no longer a taboo subject. France and now the Netherlands are tackling the subject head-on. This is a good thing, I think.

    2. My aunt is married to a man from holland, he says moroccans and surinames tend to get stopped alot by cops. Plus they tend not to back down even though they are smaller then the dutch cops when confronted…The indoneisans are cool headed though

    3. “Order of the day” is perfectly acceptable in English and is used with some frequency. Dutch, along with Frisian, are the intermediary between English and German, all in the Western Germanic branch of the Indo European language family. It doesn’t adhere to strict German word order or conventions at times, and can be nearly English in some respects. It’s an odd mix, especially Frisian which is the closest living relation to English in the world.

  5. “The lives of criminals generally are already clichés.
    There are usually no deep reasons why they do what they do, and those
    seeking such motives have read too many Charles Dickens novels.”
    I met a lot of guys in the Federal Joint, and I can say that this is true (generally speaking). Most of these men simply lack impulse control and are also opportunistic criminals.

    1. There is alot of fantasy in many movies, like really almost no one shoots at cops(better to run or hire a lawyer). Serial killers and assassins are generally below average intelligence, not above. The only people who might be a little interesting is the con-men.

      1. Quintus,
        Always enjoy reading your material. The interesting thing about federal inmates is that when it comes to constitutional and statutory law I’ve never met a group of people (outside of attorneys) who were overall fairly well versed on the subject. Unfortunately, the government and the private correctional facility “Corrections Corporation of America” (CCA) have built a MONSTER when it comes to the federal legal system, and it USUALLY takes either a college degree or a felony conviction to get the picture.

        1. From my experience of living both on the wealthy and the poor side of life. The hood has no where for these young “criminals” to go or do they give them the vision of success nor show them what is possible to achieve in the outside world. So they turn to the streets to find employment and do bad things to satisfy their need to do something or fulfill some type of empty spot inside them. I’ve lost 19 friends in the last three years to this bullshit, all of them are dead now. and its sad because they are so young none of them made it past 19 years old.

        2. Another reason for these young people doing their criminal activities is that they have been brainwashed from day 1 to think 1 way and only that way and that is “that there is not enough for everyone in this world” so they kill and steal and take things from people to justify this belief of theirs’

  6. [The cast features many stereotyped but necessary characters. We have Majid’s father (Abdelkrim Bahloul), who hates his son and can’t believe God has cursed him with such criminal progeny. We have the suffering mother (Baya Belal) who can do little more than pray and hide in a corner. We have Majid’s younger brother Tarik (Mohammed El Mimouni) who seems to be a good kid, and yet somehow doomed by association.]
    ahh the universal problem when the westernized 2nd gen immigrant goes against his honest hardworking parents values,relgion, tradions and culture.
    Be it arabs in europe, whom identify in muslim groups but drink smoke and sleep around, or the latino gangster in america rocking a cross around his neck as he deals and kills or the asian gangster in canada rocking a buddha or honor tattoo as he trafficks and extorts.
    They merely symbolically call themselves as such without the behaviour like western women with a high notch count in denial of being a slut
    Because of their brash DGAF mindset, lack of families imporatance, selfish narcissistic individualistic thinking that borders sociopathy their motherland counterparts call them whitewashed or what ever nation they are form and not call them by their ethnic group. Parents think twice about marrying their daughters to them. They prefer the local boy as having the better values.
    Much of the natives in europe or the west for that matter that hate them and consider them the “other”, the way they think act and behave, they are more closer to us in terms of values and atitude.
    DOnt belive me? Then why do we want to marry girls from those tradional communities?Because they have good morals thanx to a tradional culture that has the father as a good moral leader and disciplinary.
    These ones dont, but they are doing what we are suppose to be doing to be successful at the dating game here…..be a thug. But thats almost the mere equvalent as letting your westernized daughter be a ho…which happens. The motherlanders would not tolerate it and perhaps would have been different. This feminized individualistic culture is only good for making violent men and promiscuous women.

  7. If you like realistic european crime movie, watch “easy money” or “snabba cash”.
    Its a swedish trilogy treating subjectif like:
    Balkanese human trafiquing,
    South american dealers
    Social decline of a swedish youngster

  8. Sorry but the film doesn’t strike me as realistic from one perspective.
    The father wouldn’t be ‘ashamed’ of his son’s shenanigans in real life. Immigrant thugs, and in this case Muslim, are actually encouraged by their parents to engage in whatever tricks and illegal activities they want to pull, as it directly benefits them and the risks are considered minimal from their perspective of hatred and despise of the country they live in (non-Muslim). In their religion, it’s ok to commit any sort of ‘crime’ on non-believers. There’s an entire Islamic concept dedicated to ‘cheating’ the kaffirs, which is unpunished according to the religion’s tenets.
    If you take a look at the criminalized youth gangs (Muslims) in Western Europe, it’s pretty much the same story. The parents try to always downplay their sons’ actions, claiming that they were ‘good boys’ and got carried away by Western influence.
    Even the families of those youths who ran off to Syria and became jihadists refuse to accept their tacit complacence with the progeny’s deeds, while huffing and puffing about the ‘injustice’ of a system keen on harassing ‘boys’.
    So sorry but I don’t buy it.

    1. Bullshit. Though you might never read this reply, here’s a lengthy answer.
      A lot of next-generation immigrants have actually steered away from Islamic beliefs and this steers against the traditionally valued fathers. They have Westernized. Those who are actually encouraging criminal tendencies are nothing but hypocrites and they exist.
      The “first generation” (the fathers) were invited on work visas and did everything to make sure that their transition to “going back” would be as easy as possible. They build local mosques in abandoned buildings, segregated themselves from their host country by living in neighborhoods with their own folks, build localized supermarkets et cetera and all of this was actually encouraged by the government because everyone thought they would actually go back after the “dirty work” they were invited for was done.
      But as it turned out, the dirty work wasn’t going away and there was a surplus of poor people from Morocco (and of course Turkey and other Balkan countries) who would be happy to do that dirty work. So more and more came in, and later they flew in wives who – because they didn’t participate in social traffic – segregated themselves even more. Got children here, they went to school and before you know it they have build a heritage and you can’t send them back that easily anymore.
      Most of the “first generation” its money was still being transferred back to their home country, but with the second and third generation it was turning into a different situation. They were much more connected to their host country than to that of one which they only saw during the holidays. They settled here. They were born here.
      But most of them weren’t accepted. Because they were different, had different beliefs and values due to nurture. Yet the second generation went to school, spoke the host language fluently and due to these differences didn’t have the same chances at employment. People wanted them out even though they were born here. And this is where problems arose. They got into criminality because it was the only path which would give them short term success, as they had no other options.
      And if you, as 16 year old kid can’t get a job at the local supermarket yet see all your friends driving around in expensive cars and living the good life, you want a piece of that action and join them in whatever illegal activities they are doing. It’s a domino’s effect.
      At this point the fathers can only look at their children and see something occurring which they cannot influence anymore. How can they be anything but not ashamed?
      Regarding “In their religion, it’s ok to commit any sort of ‘crime’ on non-believers. There’s an entire Islamic concept dedicated to ‘cheating’ the kaffirs, which is unpunished according to the religion’s tenets” – this is called Taqiya and primarily a Shia concept. There is no such thing in Islam as “ok to lie on purpose” ONLY when forced to do going against the believe system otherwise. And even then, death is often more desirable than speaking the inverse.
      Note that I don’t condemn or approve of anything stated above but if there’s anything I hate it’s those speaking without knowledge and implying it’s the absolute truth.

      1. What 16 year old kids drive expensive cars?
        I haven’t seen anything of the sort.
        young Muslims in Europe, and i’m referring to the criminal gangs and all that, not to everyone, are simply too coddled and spoon-fed to realize that in any country, in any society, unless you’re a one percenter you’ll need a skill to fall back on.
        The first generation migrants, the ‘parents’, came without nothing and worked hard because they didn’t have the cushy safety net of welfare systems that citizenship entitles to.
        The ‘children’, more than often citizens, born into a country of prosperity, peace and no hardship at all compared to the hell hole their parents left behind, feel entitled to a ‘good life’ of consumerism simply because they are uneducated. In their conception, they deserve just because they exist. They don’t go to school, don’t complete their studies, have no skill or professional qualifications, then blame ‘racism’ for nobody wanting to employ them.
        Leaving aside the crazy, radicalized Muslims, some of whom are highly educated, most youth gangs of ‘immigrants’, the majority Muslims (in the Netherlands, France, Sweden etc) have 10th or 9th grade educations but expect and demand iPhones, convertible Mercedes cars and designer clothing, because.
        Parents might feel ashamed deep down in their hearts and in the privacy of their homes, but publicly they always adopt a different stance. ALL parents of Muslim criminals, including the religious radicals, always say that their ‘children’ are ‘good kids’ and everybody loved them, and they were sweet little doves who just inexplicably blew themselves off or chopped someone’s limbs, or just started with the hatred. Just like that, overnight.
        So this movie plot is like it is just glamorizing immigrants, criminality, lawlessness and lack of respect for any values and tenets of a civilized society, poor little criminal, it was ‘the system’.

  9. Cops and robbers are two sides of the same coin. Crooked cops are basically nothing but a bunch of ‘robbers’ who pride themselves in that they are crooks who’ve cleaned up and polished their wardrobe and they can’t wait to put their knee upon their scruffily dressed counterparts. Both groups are one and the same when they go round and round in circles. They can’t seem to get enough of each other. FUCK the gay mangina sheriff with his troop of trustees doing yard work for free and sucking the boss’s dick in the bushes. And the pussy scrap eating white knight cops stuck in their miserable save a ho marriages. FUCK ‘EM ALL. They all need each other to scratch each other’s backs. Let them feed off each other elsewhere. I’m sure there’s a purgatory especially reserved just for the whole lot of them, cop and criminal alike. What a riot it would be to watch them go at it for eternity. The good lord has a sense of humor. The dichotomy of it all. Shit likes company.
    Honestly who wants to go about looking like Darth Vader with a motorcycle helmet and bugs in their teeth looking for some poorly dressed semblence of themself to rumble and hogtie. Both cop and criminal are damn three year old chumps on the inside, or at least the part of their brain that interfaces with the higher planes in the universe is stunted to that of a confounded three year old.
    Ask a three year old ”why the heck did you just throw that object?” or ”why did you just topple that yard ornament?” Their ansewer: ”duuh I felt like it.” Both cop and criminal contribute nothing to the advancement of mankind and the big ‘top cop’ is usually some irredeemable waste of a soul with skeletons in the closet. If only you knew. If only their dirty laundry were to come out, most cops would get duly outed or at least isolated as is done with the insane, separated from the productive group. Useless eaters, like bad apples are separated from the barrel or at least quarantined from the whole, and this is done for the better well being of the greater body of man, of course.
    Once they’re all put in their place, in monkey cages, then we’ll see that defective part of their brain, that whatchamacallit gland, that little chick pea sized gland or whatever it is that contains the conscience, that part of them that is defective show through, cop and robber alike, and their undoing will be like a melodrama for all to witness.
    So let’s unclothe the cop. Let’s see YOUR skeletons you barney fife doinkster. Let’s quit making cop uniforms for them to prance around in. No more four star general outfits with pins and badges for these childish adult miscreants. We’ll be fooled no more. What a menace. Good riddens. Criminals are managable and identifyable but the crooked cops must be unclothed and exposed first.

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