Quentin Tarantino’s Ten Boldest Moments
Few directors working today offer more surprises per film than Quentin Tarantino, which is why it pays to go into his films knowing as little as possible before hand. But most of Tarantino's surprises are seasoned with a characteristically impressive nerve, which allows him to get away with things most filmmakers might shy away from. Here are some of Tarantino's boldest moments.
As far as boldness goes, it's difficult to top the gruesome onscreen murder of Adolph Hitler in 'Inglourious Basterds.' It's not enough that Eli Roth and Omar Doom rewrite History with his death; they practically turn one of History's most reviled figure into swiss cheese, especially in the head and face area. 'Inglourious Basterds' spends most of its plot building up to this will they/won't they moment, and Tarantino makes sure there's absolutely no doubt that his Hitler is dead as disco.
This big climactic moment might supply 'Reservoir Dogs' with its biggest bit of visual iconography (neck and neck with shots of the crew walking down the street after breakfast), and it's not hard to understand why. The moment sums up all the film has to say about criminal moral codes and the idea of honor among thieves, and it does so while looking incredibly cool.
It's always hard to remember just from looking at snapshots that there are actually four dudes in all, and Mr. White has to gun down two guys instead of just one. That's loyalty. But because he's killing his bosses, it's also a horrible betrayal of loyalties, something Harvey Keitel's character is soon to realize.
'Jackie Brown' is more focused on romance and age and money schemes than rampant violence, but when it gets to killing characters, it's certainly not shy. Most of the film's big deaths come as a bit of a shock, but none more so than Louis' sudden gunning down of a nagging Melanie in a shopping mall parking lot. The moment makes clear Robert De Niro's dimwitted ex-con's willingness to kill, and illustrates the life or death stakes surrounding Jackie's plot. And, as with lots of Tarantino's sudden spurts of violence, it's also kind of uncomfortably funny.
By the time we get to 'Kill Bill Vol. 2,' we've already seen enough carnage and bloodshed for three regular films, which is why this one smartly goes a bit smaller (that being a relative term).
We have every reason to believe the inevitable fight between Beatrix Kiddo and Elle Driver will be a long, dragged-out, hyper violent battle. And for while, that's exactly what it is. What we don't expect is for The Bride to end it simply by plucking out Driver's remaining eyeball. And stepping on it. And leaving Driver alive, blind, and super pissed-off. Though wholly unexpected, it makes perfect sense.
A lot of people give Tarantino grief for being a bad actor. I generally find him good in non-Tarantino films, but not so great in his own. Even when he does give himself a part, though, it's usually small and easy enough to work with.
Not so with his show stopping role as Jimmie in 'Pulp Fiction.' Tarantino gives himself a lengthy monologue that not only inspires some very strange line readings, but tasks him with multiple uses of the N-word as well. The thing is, the more I watch it, the less I would want any other actor playing the role. Now it's one of my favorite parts of the film.
Stuntman Mike's successful murder of 'Death Proof's first group of young girls is pretty amazing for the raw brutality of the violence involved (seriously, Vanessa Ferlito's face gets ripped off by a spinning tire). But it's when Mike's second would-be group of victims turn the tables on him that Death Proof really turns into something special.
Given Kurt Russell's general swagger and fourth-wall breaking smirks, we have every reason to believe Stuntman Mike is the old school tough guy he sells himself as. But when threatened, it turns out he's just a big cry baby who likes to pick on poor, defenseless girls. 'Death Proof' may be Tarantino's least loved film, but stuff like this makes it very much a Tarantino film, and that alone is worth something.
We go into 'Inglourious Basterds' expecting to see more Basterd action than we actually get, but that's okay because what we actually get is so much more than the simple WWII men on a mission film the Brad Pitt-filled trailers sold.
Still, it stings a bit when two of our most interesting badasses, Michael Fassbender's Lt. Archie Hicox and Til Schweiger's Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz suddenly disappear from the film before we're prepared for such a departure. The basement interrogation scene takes its time and stretches tensions to a breaking point before suddenly devolving into a massacre of Nazi testicles that kills our would be heroes. Even a couple scenes later, it's still kind of hard to believe they're gone.
The Bride wants revenge for the death of her fiancé, the death of her child, and the nearly successful attempt on her own life that put her in a coma for four years.
But its what happened to her during her coma that really sickens. As if she didn't already have legitimate grievances, The Bride wakes up to find that while immobile and barely alive in a hospital bed, her body was being pimped out by an orderly named Buck. Somehow all that stuff done to her by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad seems just a little less awful. Luckily, her revenge on this score takes only a couple of door slams.
Not that it doesn't all make sense, but it took guts to follow up the death of John Travolta in 'Pulp Fiction' with a living John Travolta from earlier in the film's non-chronologically presented time stream. The first time you see Travolta walking and talking like he wasn't ever shot while taking a dump, it takes a moment to figure out how such a thing could be possible. But that kind of boldness is part of what made 'Pulp Fiction' so fun and memorable in the first place.
Tarantino likes feet. That's wonderful for him. But rather than just keep that a private part of his personal life, he has no problem sharing his fetish with the world. Enough of his films offer loving, glorious close-ups of his actresses' feet that we can predictably look forward to it in each new film. It takes guts to put your kinks out there for the world to see. It's too bad he doesn't feel the same about guy feet. I wouldn't mind the same level of attention paid to Havery Keitel's toenails.