‘Urban Wolf’ – Review

Crackle's new silent Hitchcockian web series is worth howling about.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

'Urban Wolf' - Review

Imagine you’re a stranger in a distant land. You get off the plane, alone, and as you make your way through the unfamiliar city streets you get the distinct feeling that you’re being watched. But then, you are. We all are, by security cameras set up for our protection. But what happens when whoever’s watching all those cameras doesn’t have our best interests at heart. What happens… when they want to kill us?

Urban Wolf, a new web series on Crackle.com premiering May 13th takes that premise and quite literally runs with it throughout the streets of Paris in a series combining elements of silent comedies, paranoid conspiracy thrillers and even a little 1984 just to keep you on your toes. It’s an engaging little adventure that critics are already saying “may become the first successful international web thriller series,” a weird statement clarified and re-clarified to the point of meaninglessness. “International,” “web,” “thriller” and “series?” The only word you should be focusing on is “successful,” because despite a few hiccups Urban Wolf is an exciting little bit of filmmaking.

Vincent Sze stars as “Justin Case,” who may sound like he’s about to go explore the mysterious underground lair of the Lava Men with Jonny Quest and Ben Ten but is, in fact, a normal guy visiting Paris to meet… someone. (Plot point!) But in the first episode of Urban Wolf, poor Justin catches a security camera watching him a little too closely. Getting paranoid, he covers the camera and darts away, but this is modern Paris, and cameras are everywhere. Soon, the city behaves strangely around him. Lights stay red, TVs in storefront windows show footage of his own manic reactions and finally, Paris itself starts trying to kill him in various, often creative ways.

If Urban Wolf is to be faulted then all fingers point to pacing issues, which perhaps are a problem intrinsic to the series. It takes writer/director Laurent Touil-Tartour more time to establish his concept than a web series could provide in a single episode, getting Urban Wolf off to an enigmatic but slow start. There are also occasional breaks in the action, which follow Justin Case as he tries – and fails – to make some sense of his situation, which get us into his head a bit but don’t really go anywhere. Also, once the plot kicks in and Justin tries to actually defend himself, the filmmaker’s dedication to largely dialogue-less storytelling makes a crucial series of events difficult to explain adequately, although we do at least get the gist of it. These aren’t the worst trials and tribulations a web series could weather, but it’s important not to let the praise being heaped on Urban Wolf go completely unchallenged.

That said, all is forgiven in an emotionally satisfying and memorable conclusion that helps elevate Urban Wolf above its various flaws, and until then audiences will have a distinctive and often very fun series of Hitchcockian set pieces to plow through week after week. (If you can get through a few dry patches, at least.) Urban Wolf deserves its notoriety and may in fact lead this new pack of exciting web series. Strongly recommended.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10