Urban Wolf a Near-Perfect 21st Century Thriller

When I saw Urban Wolf at last year’s ITVFest, it was being screened as part of an international drama block (sharing the slot with Oz Girl) — which worked, because the show is a truly international production.

Created by French director Laurent Touil Tartour, starring Hong Kong actor Vincent Sze, and now being distributed in America by Sony’s Crackle (s SNE), Urban Wolf is a gripping thriller that stands out as proudly unique.

From Crackle: Forces

Some of Wolf‘s execution might emulate classic 1970s thrillers, but the concept is pure 21st century, playing nimbly with issues of privacy and paranoia. The set-up seems simple initially — American tourist Justin Case arrives in Paris only to find himself under surveillance by a deadly foe. But over the show’s 15 three-minute episodes, the mystery of who is watching Justin and why grows in complexity, as does the reason why Justin is in Paris to begin with.

Deliberately produced with the bare minimum of dialogue (making it possible for the show to play internationally with ease), sound design ends up playing a key role in the show’s success, communicating aurally what words make unnecessary. When a director can make even the eating of a potato chip seem malevolent (as occurs in the yet-to-premiere episode 7), you know you’ve watching something special.

However, while style and production value matter, a project like this lives or dies with its lead actor. Fortunately, Sze is an engaging lead who manages to draw you in even when maintaining a poker face, though frankly he’s a better silent actor than a speaking one. (Fun bit of trivia: While in the show, Sze’s character claims not to speak French, in reality Sze moved to France at the age of 3 before returning to Hong Kong as an adult.)

Episodes 1-5 were released today as a block, which was a wise choice given that the end of episode 5 offers the first big clue to why Justin is being followed. But the remaining 10 episodes will be released on a daily basis.

If I were to critique anything about Wolf, it might be that the show plays best when viewed all at once, as opposed to an episode-by-episode basis — the morsels of story provided by each episode individually are almost too teasing at times.

But that just means I’d recommend stopping by Crackle on May 27, when the finale will premiere — because the last two episodes include a twist that takes the series to a new and dark place, one that practically demands a season 2.

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