Flashback: A look at a few of Tarantino’s older films.

Less than two weeks into its theatrical run, Django Unchained is already well on its way to becoming Quentin Tarantino’s biggest hit ever, at least in North America; it has already outgrossed all but two of his films, and could very well pass Inglourious Basterds, the current champ, by next weekend — especially if it gets a box-office boost when the Oscar nominations are announced this Thursday.

I have not had a chance to review the film myself yet, but I figured this was as good a time as any to re-post the few articles on Tarantino films that I have written over the years. Two — the reviews of Four Rooms (1995) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), the latter of which was not directed by Tarantino but was written by him and co-starred him — date back to my student-newspaper days. I also devoted a few paragraphs to Kill Bill (2003-2004) in a Books & Culture article on revenge movies, plus I reviewed Inglourious Basterds (2009) for the now-defunct BC Christian News.

Review: Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Seventeen years after he burst onto the scene with the talky, violent crime flick Reservoir Dogs, the films of Quentin Tarantino continue to generate intense debate, even in theological circles.

Just the other day, I heard a prominent Christian professor assert that the hit men played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction make evil look attractive, and that those two characters remain “sociopaths” right to the end of the movie.

Many other Christians, however, have argued that Fiction does reflect a moral sensibility of some sort: the Jackson character abandons his criminal ways in the end, after he experiences something he believes to have been a “miracle,” while the Travolta character, who remains a criminal, is eventually killed with his own gun.

[Read more...]

The Revenger’s Tragedy / Vengeance is ours, saith Hollywood.

Vengeance is ours, saith Hollywood. This message came through particularly loud and clear during a single week in April, in which the studios released three films about grim, determined vigilantes who seek brutal revenge against their enemies. While those who take the law into their own hands are usually anything but heroic in real life, the protagonists in Kill Bill, The Punisher, and Man on Fire are all presented in more or less sympathetic terms. All of their violent vendettas are portrayed as at least somewhat justified, and there even seems to be a hint of divine sanction hanging over their efforts. All three of them have lost a child, and sometimes other friends and family too, and all three of them have been shot and left for dead by the villains who deprived them of their loved ones. Thus, when all three of them recuperate and set out on their quests for vengeance, it is as though they have risen from the dead to set wrongs right.

[Read more...]

Review: Four Rooms (dir. various, 1995)

On paper, it looked like such a good idea. Back when they were still unknown, four independent directors — Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging) and Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup) — agreed to tell four different stories set in a hotel on New Year’s Eve, with a bellboy (Tim Roth) as their only link. With the one-two punch success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Four Rooms became an opportunity for the others to ride Tarantino’s coattails.

Consider the opportunity wasted. Four Rooms is an utterly lackluster production that most involved would be wise to keep out of their portfolios. It also represents the first solid nail in Tarantino’s cinematic coffin.

[Read more...]

Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

At first From Dusk Till Dawn looks like it might strike a balance between Quentin Tarantino’s savvy scriptwriting and the kinetic camerawork and adrenaline editing that are Robert Rodriguez’s forte. Indeed, the opening shoot-out, which segues smoothly from snappy dialogue to airborne hemoglobin, is a masterful fusion of talents. But after that, their styles prove to be as insoluble as oil and water. This is not one movie but two half-movies; one might call it Two Rooms.

The defining moment comes halfway through the story. Two American bank robbers and their hostages, having escaped to Mexico, enter a strip club called the Titty Twister, an opulent den of iniquity that leaves most other saloons choking in the dust. The camera lingers lasciviously on a neverending cascade of flesh, beer, flesh, Mayan architecture, flesh and six-shooting codpieces (did I mention flesh?) that vie for our attention as the criminals take their seats. One stripper takes centre stage — or table, as the case may be — and begins to flirt shamelessly with one of the slack-jawed gringos.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X