Comedy seldom travels well from one culture to another, but to judge from the first episode of this engaging if uneven satire highlighting humanity’s baser instincts, it’s clear that Argentine writer-director Damián Szifrón has a knack for latching on to ideas with a humorous dimension that’s pretty universal. The opening sketch, about an almost surreally improbable situation—a plane-load of strangers is assembled by an unseen individual bent on revenge—demonstrates not only Szifrón’s taste in ultrablack humor but his preferred strategy of combining outrageous excess with a perverse but unavoidable logic. Grudges, minor insults and found-out flirtations lead to mayhem and murder on a cataclysmic scale.
The funniest of the six stories is a brilliantly extended riot of absurdly brutal road rage. The most politically biting is a study of concealment and corruption among the wealthy, reminiscent of Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman. The great Argentine actor Ricardo Darín appears as an explosives expert plagued by a banal parking-ticket department. The first three episodes are the most amusing, but the final three also have interesting things to say about the psychological and moral health of contemporary Argentina—and, of course, the rest of the world.