CRITICS HAVE been good to "Wild Tales," perhaps because they see what happens, in the hair-raising opening sequence, to those who give bad reviews.

But the movie (Oscar nominated from Argentina), a series of acidly funny and often violent vignettes, deserves its praise.

The movie is subtitled, but anyone can relate to its sardonic, Serling-esque stories and settings - an airplane, a cafe, lonely highway, the DMV, a wedding.

"Wild Tales" has been described as a movie about revenge, but I'd refine that to say that the movie gives us variations on the theme of outrage, the world's most fashionable and contagious emotion.

A man in a luxury car is cut off by a belligerent "redneck," leading to a roadside fight to the death that plays like Robert Rodriguez by way of Buster Keaton.

In another episode, a fellow (Ricardo Darin) runs afoul of the Buenos Aires Parking Authority, apparently no less bureaucratic and Kafka-esque than our own.

His retribution is so cinematically satisfying, the character has become a folk hero in Argentina.

The movie touches on themes of money, power, elitism, corruption, but in ways that play tricks with our sympathies - watch the way money figures in the legal wrangling behind a fatal hit-and-run.

The stories could have settled for mere exploitation, but they grow more complex as they go, until the final bit, when a bride (Erica Rivas) and groom enact the entire arc of a passionate, fraught marriage during the bouquet toss and bridal dance.

Here the characters get past their base impulses to a place marginally more civilized, if no less bloody.

When you see the groom pick up a knife, halfway between the bride and the wedding cake, you don't know what to expect, but in this collection of wildly vengeful tales, maybe reconciliation is the wildest thing of all.

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