Marwan Kenzari from the Netherlands is on his way to making it big in America. The Dutch hunk was voted one of the 10 best young European actors at this year’s Berlin Film Festival for his powerful role in the film noir, “Wolf,” written and directed by Jim Taihuttu.
Kenzari plays Majid, an ex-con raised in a grim, impoverished Netherlands suburb. Majid’s father is ashamed of him and throws him out of the house. Needing money Majid puts his athletic skills to work. He excels at kickboxing and hopes to make big money in the ring. He shows promise as a fighter but isn’t strong enough to fight the pull of the crime underworld that is beckoning him back. His best friend Addil (Chems Eddine Amar) pressures Majid to help him in an ill-advised robbery.
It’s an action-packed thriller with complex characters and difficult situations. As in any film noir, our hero is deeply flawed yet you will find yourself rooting for Majid. He is tender with his terminally ill older brother Hamza (Nasrdin Dchar) and tries to keep his younger brother focused on school, fearing the boy will make the same mistakes in life.
When asked about Kenzari’s performance Taihuttu said, “Manwar is so talented and dedicated, he is a director’s dream.”
After “Wolf” Kenzari caught the eye of director Eran Creevy. The Londoner cast Kenzari in the Silver Pictures thriller, “Autobahn,” which also stars, Ben Kinglsey, Anthony Hopkins, Felicity Jonesand Nicholas Hoult.
Dorri Olds caught up with Marwan Kenzari for an exclusive interview.
Dorri Olds: How would you describe your character in “Wolf”?
Marwan Kenzari: The thing is I don’t consider Majid a bad guy. He’s trapped in this world where he is just — we have a saying in The Netherlands — “just trying to keep your head above water level.” Majid knows who he is and what he is capable of so he decided he’s not going to be able to swim above water but knows he’s got to swim under the water and hold his breath as long as possible. He is trying to deal with things in his own way but his core is actually quite generous and quite loving.
Can you describe that side of Majid?
To me, it’s his connection to his younger brother and older brother and his mother and father, and even in a strange way, the girl. For me it’s too easy to see, okay, he hits her and that’s horrible. He’s like an animal trying to deal with his instincts. He has to work with what he’s got. He’s stuck in between these two worlds; wolves make a hierarchy and this guy was in prison so he knows that life. There are many cultural elements in this film.
What do you mean?
His parents have no money, his brother is sick. Majid wants to provide and take care of them but has no money. We know he does not have many options. He’s a high school dropout. The way we tried to show something had happened before the film started is with one of my favorite scenes. Majid is with his little brother watching television and the little brother says, “They’re talking about you at school and they’re saying you killed someone.” This lets the audience know that he went to prison for something quite bad. He knows the culture of prison and the laws in the street.
How would you describe Majid’s father?
There are scenes between Majid and his father that shows their culture. The father is very embarrassed by his son but the key scene between Majid and his father — not the fight, I’m talking about the later scene — that was a very hard scene to shoot. I’m the one, I mean as Majid, who initiates the hug towards the father. It’s a very small, subtle gesture but it’s very important to show that Majid is the one that initiates the hug. Then his father says something so cruel in his ear you can see that drives Majid to show his father that he is capable of winning or doing something that will make his father proud. It’s too easy to say these are bad characters.
“Wolf” is now available On Demand. Action thriller crime drama. Subtitles. Not rated. 122 min.
Dorri Olds is a journalist at Honeysuckle Magazine, TheBlot Magazine, The Jewish Daily Forward and has been published in The New York Times.