Though ostensibly about a kickboxer, little of Wolf‘s violence takes place inside the ring. Majid (Marwan Kenzari) isn’t so much drawn to a life of crime as he is placed into one by default—a Moroccan living in an unnamed Dutch suburb, he can’t accept the drudgery of a day job or the dispiriting notion that he’ll never transcend the meager environs in which he grew up.
Most films purporting to show the seedy underbelly of this or that location deal in over-the-top violence and faux grittiness, so it’s refreshing that director Jim Taihuttu is more interested in the humdrum goings on of those who split their time between illegal and legitimate activities.
Majid is assertive in one scene, detached in another, and joins a proud lineage of low-level enforcers whose attempts to improve their lot only complicate matters further. The fact that his brother is slowly dying in the hospital doesn’t exactly endear him to us, let alone excuse the brutality with which he settles a petty dispute over the woman he claims as his own, but it does help explain the way he coldly regards everyone around him.
Lennart Verstegen’s stark black-and-white photography underscores just how violent and wayward Majid really is, and the audience is likely to realize that he’s lost to himself and the few people who still care about him before he does.