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Quentin Tarantino's Latest a Mostly Self-Indulgent Battle

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2009 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Quentin Tarantino's Latest a Mostly Self-Indulgent Battle

DVD Release Date:  December 15, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  August 21, 2009
Rating:  R (for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality)
Genre:  Drama, War, Action
Run Time:  153 min.
Director:  Quentin Tarantino
Actors:  Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, B.J. Novak

Proving he's far more blood-thirsty than any of the vampires wholeheartedly embraced by pop culture these days, famed director Quentin Tarantino leaves no opportunity for over-the-top, gratuitous violence unturned in his latest work, Inglourious B*sterds.

Those faint of heart and squeamish of stomach will find themselves constantly squirming in their seats, thanks to an abundance of scalpings, shootings and other unsavory methods for ending people's lives.

But if you're familiar with any of his other flicks (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), that's really not a huge surprise because, well, that's Tarantino's thing. He's a film geek with a taste for gory revenge tales, and his latest work in Inglourious B*sterds is fairly consistent with his past offerings.  In fact, after a somewhat lukewarm reception at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, some critics are even hailing it as his best work since Pulp Fiction, which released in 1994.

While I definitely wouldn't go that far, thankfully, the final result was far more promising than the film's distasteful trailer, which made mass genocide seem about as horrifying as an afternoon at the zoo. The main problem, aside from the uninspired casting of Brad Pitt in the leading role (his twangy Tennessee accent is nothing short of ridiculous, and his acting is equally unremarkable), is Tarantino's clearly self-indulgent streak. Not only do some scenes drag on (and on and on) with no discernable rhyme or reason, but it wouldn't hurt him to consider one of the most helpful truths for anyone who lives by his/her pen:  Every writer needs an editor.

Clearly impressed with his own chutzpah (and there are a few clever and jaw-dropping lines of dialogue scattered throughout to justify it), the movie could've done without a few of those unbearably long verbal sparring matches that frequently crop up. In a summer full of mindless blockbusters where the writing definitely plays second fiddle to a dazzling array of special effects, it's nice to see attention given to what's actually being said. But in Tarantino's case, it's more about shock value and showing off his turns of phrase than moving the story forward.

Nonetheless, this spaghetti western of sorts (think The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) is an intriguing re-imagining of history, if you don't mind all the push-the-envelope liberties taken in the process. The title, intentionally misspelled and serving as a wink and a nudge to Enzo Castellari's late ‘70s film, refers to a group of Jewish-American soldiers on the Nazi warpath. Under direct orders from the U.S. military, these b*sterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) are supposed to use whatever means possible (basically, the grizzlier, the better) to slay and then scalp the Nazis once they're dead. Then to spread the message of exactly how bad the attack was, one German soldier gets to live, but with a permanent reminder of the Nazi's misdeeds:  a swastika meticulously carved into his forehead.

Rallying against violence with violence is a theme that also resonates in the secondary story of Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent). See, Shosanna has her own reasons for wanting to kill Nazis, namely because she's the lone Jewish survivor of an attack led by the "Jew Hunter" who savagely slaughtered her entire family. Changing her name and fleeing to run a cinema she inherited from her family, she captures the interest of a German sniper who just happens to have a lead role in an upcoming war picture.

After the sniper insists she host the premiere of his new movie at her theater (something she initially has reservations about—and with good cause), she agrees to host the event. But she's not simply being nice, of course. She's got a motive that also involves revenge. And what better away to exact it than to assemble all the leaders together at one place?

To say much more plot-wise would inevitably ruin the rest for anyone interested in seeing it, so I'll refrain. But I will say this:  Inglourious B*sterds is a movie that you'll either love or hate. There's really no reaction in between, and that's probably exactly what Tarantino intended because pushing people's buttons is his forté. Unfortunately, he does it with such a garish sense of style that it's often difficult to remember if there was anything redemptive about the experience.
      
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking, some to the point of drunkenness on display, plus cigarette smoking.
  • Language/Profanity:  More than 20 uses of the "f" word plus a smattering of other expletives, including cases where God's name is misused.
  • Sex/Nudity:  There's a quick scene of sexual intercourse, plus plenty of sexual innuendo throughout.
  • Violence:  Anyone not familiar with Quentin Tarantino's previous work may be surprised by the amount of graphic (read: bloody and gory) violence on display here which includes: deaths by gunfire, baseball bats, choking and fire.  Those already dead are also scalped, and in one scene, a swastika is carved into a person's forehead.


Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.