So about a month ago I was talking movies with the Mrs. and she mentioned that she hadn’t seen all of the Tarantino movies. While she had seen more recent movies like Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds she hadn’t seen his earlier movies. Considering it had been awhile since I had seen the movies myself I decided to make a week out of it because I’m always up for new content. Now this isn’t going to be a normal review because what is there to say? While there is a variance in quality all of his movies are good to great. These will just be random summaries or observations of watching the movies. Also expect the term “this holds up” to come up a lot.
What struck me the most about this movie is how much of my taste can be summed up by this movie alone. Not just the pop culture talking, violent crime movies it no doubt spawned over the years either. With Reservoir Dogs basically being an Americanized version of Ringo Lam’s City on Fire it could also represent my love for Hong Kong’s heroic bloodshed style movies. How years after seeing Reservoir Dogs I was dazzled by John Woo movies like Hard Boiled and The Killer and how it expanded to enjoying movies from Dante Lam, Benny Chan and Wilson Yip. Now I may have discovered this stuff on my own but I can’t help but think that watching Tim Roth’s hilarious American accent might have a bit to do with it.
True Romance is an interesting movie to look back on. While there have been bigger hits and Tarantino has written other movies to me this is the most mainstream of his filmography. Given it is pure Tarantino with the references to The Mack and awesome monologues but it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like, appropriately, a Tony Scott movie. It has the overly bloated, over-the-top action we’ve come to expect from latter day Tony Scott movies. Not to say that is a bad thing. The more conventional look the movie has opens it up to changes from Tarantino’s script which I think work out for the better. With Scott the tone of the movie is less Tarantino and more of this weird mix of action and dark rom com that works out perfectly. Still I can’t help but wonder how the movie would have turned out with Quentin behind the camera. Would it still have the “tragic love story” feel? Would the original ending feel less forced? Would we get more of Val Kilmer as Elvis? Oh well just one of the great What Ifs? of movie history.
True Romance also introduced me to the greatness that is Sonny Chiba. For that I am forever in True Romance’s debt.
While I had known the movie and gotten the references to Pulp Fiction it was actually the fourth Tarantino movie I had seen after Kill Bill vol. 1, Reservoir Dogs and True Romance. So by the time I saw this I didn’t quite get the movie. I could see it was good but I was in my pissy teen phase where I had to be contrarian and would go “Well Reservoir Dogs is when he REALLY came into his own” or whatever douchey thing I would say. Revisiting the movie now, yeah it’s pretty damn amazing. Everything from the directing to the dialogue to the acting is on point. While I still can’t say the movie is my favorite (Tarantino or otherwise) it is certainly up there in terms of best movies.
It also reminded me of how insanely wack the Academy Awards can be. Forrest Gump is a better than Pulp Fiction? Oh hell naw.
If Pulp Fiction was the movie I found overrated Jackie Brown is the movie I had no memory of. Not a judgment on the movie but during my “WATCH ALL TARANTINO!” time in high school it just didn’t leave the impression on me that a Reservoir Dogs did. As far as I’m concerned this is practically watching it for the first time and I have to say I was impressed. Mostly by how un-Tarantino it actually is. An adaption of the book Rum Punch it isn’t the pop culture talking, ultraviolent story you think of when it comes to Tarantino. Designed as a comeback vehicle for Pam Grier the movie is a quiet (well for Tarantino) and engaging heist movie. My girlfriend was actually stunned that this was from the same guy that wrote the Mexican stand off into Reservoir Dogs. What hasn’t changed is how good the writing is. While not as bombastic I found myself into this movie just as much as any of his other work.
The other big revelation of Jackie Brown is Robert Forester as Max Cherry. While the movie is full of great performances Forester as the squarest, most white bread dude you’ve ever seen is pitch perfect. Playing him off the usually too cool for school Jackie Brown and watching their relationship develop is an absolute delight.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Remember when I mentioned that my favorite Tarantino movie was coming up? Well Kill Bill (both volumes) is my favorite for two big reasons. The first is how much Kill Bill Vol. 1 (and 2 when I think back on it) influences my taste. Like Reservoir Dogs did before Kill Bill’s references are the ones I love come to love the most. Martial arts movies? Check. Crazy Japanese splatter? Check. Some sweet Spanish guitar on the soundtrack? Check. A majority of the movies I watch can, in some way, have something in common with these movies.
But influences aside I just think Kill Bill, both volumes combined, is Tarantino’s best movie. Despite spanning over four hours the movie is consistently entertaining and with no real down time. Every scene feels not only crucial but entertains. The script, while paying tribute to past influences, is a film all its own and never feels too derivative. Most importantly it’s one of those movies I can go back to over and over again and always have a great time watching. Whether on TV or popping in a blu ray I can watch this movie at any time and still have a great time. To me that’s the sign of a great movie.
Also you have Michael Parks playing a Latino pimp. What more do you need in a movie?