Oh Tarantino, where art thou?

I watched Kill Bill: Vol.2 on television last night, and although I enjoyed it to the point I didn’t go channel surfing like I normally do when I watch TV late at night by myself…it’s still seriously flawed.  I haven’t seen it since eagerly cueing up at my local multiplex several years ago after absolutely adoring Kill Bill Vol.1

Yet Quentin Tarantino has to be one of the most hit and miss directors to ever reach mainstream stardom, and although Pulp Fiction remains my all time favourite movie, everything else he has done (Kill Bill Vol.1 aside) is patchy as hell.  Ok, Jackie Brown had a good story, but thats more down to Elmore Leonard than anyone else, and its still desperately in need of an editor, as its over-long and stylised when it needs no heavy style, and the characters are mostly unlikable…including Samuel L. Jackson’s small time arms dealer.  Tutt tutt.  Then look at Kill Bill Vol.2, following up Tarantino’s superb return to form after ‘Brown and is once again over-long, peppered with ridiculous, unintentionally funny dialogue and an ending that pretty much destroys the whole point of the movie.  Grr.

Then look to his latest, Death Proof, a poorly acted, ridiculously dialogued movie with a promising, scary first half and a stupid second half.  Now what Tarantino has learnt over the years is film technique – he can frame a shot and use camera work and editing well when given the right material – and he can do action as good as the best of ’em, but he remains self-indulgent and a bit of a geek, needing as I have said once before on this site, to quit wallowing in his boyhood fantasies, ditch the foot fetishes, the comic book, pop-culture referrences and take a leaf out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s book (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) and start making real movies.

Come on Quentin, you have the ability – you can do it…and finally get that credibility that the likes of Scorsese and Spielberg have had for decades!  Somehow I don’t see Inglorious Bastards doing it.

Death Proof

Viewed – 27 March 2008  DVD

Quentin Tarantino will always be fairly high in my books, as he made my favourite film of all time, Pulp Fiction, yet that doesn’t mean he’s even come close to that brilliance since, and with this, his half of the much maligned Grindhouse venture he collaborated on with Robert Rodriguez, that magic still seems to avade him.

Don’t get me wrong though, there is much to like in this road movie / slasher flick with its grainy, damaged look and a 70s car chase movie atmosphere.  Mainly Kurt Russell as maniac ex stunt man ‘stuntman mike’ who’s one purpose in life is to stalk beautiful girls out on the road, then run them down. An interesting concept is peppered throughout with various (lengthy) talking scenes that have some good banter even if everyone still talks Tarantino-speak in Tarantino-land.  Realistic, convincing dialogue still seems Tarantino’s Achilles heal.  That said it does get you interested in the characters and their world, and adds greatly to their peril once Stuntman Mike is prowling.  Add to the mix some top-notch car chase action, impressive stunt sequences (especially one nasty car crash), and overall this is enjoyable stuff.  The first half builds to what I began to think could be quite a disturbing horror movie, but then things change dramatically when tables are turned in the second half – and all that initial promise slowly fades away to a ludicrous and very hard to believe conclusion.

So overall the Grindhouse thing pressed my buttons – two very enjoyable movies, but both only hint at each director’s talents, but individually they are still worth checking out – even if this isn’t quite the Tarantino I once thought I knew.  Perhaps he should stop wallowing in his boyhood fantasies, and start making real movies.

Verdict: 3 /5