Movie Review: Inglorious Basterds
By Crash Davis
Before I begin, I just want to pass along a message to the ass-clown sitting next to me at the “critic’s screening” (read: douchebags with blogs, oh wait…) who insisted on turning his flashlight on and off throughout the movie so that he could “make his notes,” despite my polite protestations:
I hope your shitty blog gets targeted by a bunch of right-wing “birthers” who are convinced you are opening a madrassa in downtown Peoria.
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, the movie. So, where to begin with Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s latest, a revisionist revenge fantasy set in Nazi-occupied France circa 1944? Well, the film sure is highly anticipated, getting lots of press and accolades for Tarantino’s supposed return to form. The film itself, however, is anything but. It’s okay as far as hyperviolent summer escapist fare, but coming from the iconoclast who delivered the one-two punch of Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction in the early nineties, Inglorious Basterds feels more like a slap and a tickle.
The movie starts off promising enough, with a small group of Nazi SS officers descending upon a small farm in occupied France. They are led by Colonel Landa (played by German actor Christoph Waltz, with scene-devouring gusto), an erudite sophisticate who happens to be adept at hunting Jews. The first fifteen minutes or so of the film involves the interchange between Colonel Landa and the farmer, with his adolescent daughters standing nearby, as they discuss milk, the Colonel’s reputation, Jews and, ultimately, a missing Jewish family who may or may not be hiding nearby. Tarantino’s script layers a rich palette of menace and charisma upon the Colonel’s dialogue. Watching him ultimately break down the farmer without an ounce of rudeness or ill-manners is captivating, ultimately resulting in a violent ending to the scene that sets up the revenge story that is one of the two major plotlines.
The other plotline involves, of course, the “Inglourious Basterds,” a rag-tag bunch of Jewish-American soldiers led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, channeling a slightly smarter Karl from Sling Blade), who are dispatched undercover by the U.S. Government to ambush the Germans behind enemy lines and “kill ‘em sum Nat-zees.” The scene introducing the Basterds is the same ubiquitous one played in countless previews for the movie, and deliciously sets the stage for the mayhem and savagery that is sure to come.
Except, after the two teasing opening scenes, the payoff never really arrives. I mean, there’s a movie in there. There’s a protagonist, a villain, a (sorta) plot structure that arrives. But, the movie, the Quentin Tarantino movie, that movie never arrives. What we are left with, instead, is an unoriginal, derivative, revenge movie ripoff of Kill Bill (agonize yourselves over the comparisons to Oshii Ren’s backstory) planted directly in the middle of The Dirty Dozen. I mean, Tarantino doesn’t even pretend that he’s entering new territory. He overplays the music, to substitute for the drama that isn’t quite there. He builds up the introduction to the action scenes that don’t really do much of anything, And, most egregious of all, he teases you. He represents to you that he understands dramatic tension and knows how to make you uneasy in the most innocuous of circumstances. That may be his most heinous cinematic crime—the tease—the come-on—the suggestion that maybe, after fifteen years, he’ll relive the cinematic climax he delivered to you so faithfully during the heyday of his mid-nineties opus.
Unfortunately, not to be. Inglourious Basterds is just OK. A mildly palatable revenge fantasy for the revenge-adolescent in all of us, with an easy villain and a revised backstory. Temper your expectations and wait for his next return to glory. I give him five years?
Frothygirlz rating 6/10