Thursday, April 18, 2013

PULP UNCHAINED: A Tarantino Retrospective

written by MJ Preston
Resevoir Dogs Planning the Caper Scene Excerpt:
Steve Buscemi:    Why am I Mr. Pink
Lawrence Tierney:    Because you're a faggot alright!
Michael Madsen:  Turns and laughs
Steve Buscemi:    Why can't we pick our own colors?
Lawrence Tierney:    No way. No way. Doesn't work. You get five guys all fighting over who wants to be Mr. Black. Nobody knows each other so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You're Mr. Pink! Be thankful you're not Mr. Yellow.
Quentin Tarantino:    Yeah well Mr. Brown, that's sounds a little to close to shit.
Steve Buscemi:    Mr Pink sounds like Mr. Pussy. How bout if I'm Mr. Purple. That's good for me I'll be Mr. Purple.
Lawrence Tierney:    You're not Mr. Purple, some guy on some other job is Mr. Purple. You're Mr. Pink!

   This was the first introduction I got to a hip young director named Quentin Tarantino, who instantly gained a cult following with his independent film: Reservoir Dogs. I had never seen anything like it. Cool music, excellent dialogue, and bloody violence turned up full blast. Quentin Tarantino was actually paying homage to the films he grew up with. The 70's drive-in classics like: Rolling Thunder or Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Since the release of Reservoir DogsTarantino went on to write the scripts: True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Tarantino would only take story credit, for Natural Born Killers, due to tinkering with the script on the part of Oliver Stone. Tarantino then went on to write and direct Pulp Fiction which gained critical appeal and turned him from independent to on demand. Pulp Fiction, like Reservoir Dogs, was a gritty crime drama with plenty of violence infused with great dialogue and dark comedic undercurrents. It grossed over $200 million at the box office and gained the respect of the critics.

     Tarantino would follow that up with Jackie Brown, which received the scorn of Director Spike Lee. It was Lee's contention
that Tarantino's use of the "N" word and portrayal of African American's was disrespectful. This started a feud between the two directors that is still going on today with Tarantino's latest flick D'Jango Unchained. Longtime friend and Actor in many of Tarantino's films, Samuel L Jackson defended the use of the word in films saying.  "Jackie Brown" and "Django Unchained" are great movies, and Lee "hasn't made one of those in a few years."
     Following Jackie Brown came Tarantino's Magnum Opus: KILL BILL, which was filmed in two parts; Vol 1 and Vol 2. This film is one of my favorites, which portrays Uma Thurman as "The Bride" who sets to avenge the murder of her unborn child. The Bride is a member of a group of international assassins, but when she opts to leave they ambush her. At her wedding no less, after killing everyone in the wedding party they leave her for dead. 
     Big Mistake.
     What ensues is an inter-continental bloodbath that takes us from Pasadena, Texas to Okinawa, Japan. The first film is electric fast, filled with action, black humor and lots of bloody violence. The scene where the Bride fights the Crazy 88's (all 88 of them) with her samurai sword alone is worth twice the price of admission. The combined running time for both films is a little over four hours, but that is really the best way to view this film.
     Following Kill Bill Tarantino teamed up with his best friend Robert Rodriguez to film the double bill: Grindhouse. Each director filmed  a 70's style feature with all the imperfections, including fake trailers. The film ran as a Double Bill in theaters, but was poorly received due to its length. I, on the other hand, loved both films. In Tarantino's feature: DEATHPROOF, Kurt Russel plays Stuntman Bob, a serial killer who use car crashes to kill women. Although
this flick starts out slow, it gets exciting and funny as action picks up. You can't help but mention the second film by Rodriguez called: PLANET TERROR which is a hilarious parody of the Zombie Apocalypse. This film is chock full of comic book action, including the raven Rose McGowan spitting out one liners and using her M16 leg to mow down Zombies. It is hoot!
     Following up with the much anticipated INGLORIOUS BASTERDS of which I feel that Tarantino fell short. Not because it wasn't a well made film, but because I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to history. So if you're a Tarantino fan then by all means check it out. I have my own reasons for not loving this film.

      Then came D'Jango Unchained starring Jamie Fox, Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio
     After Inglorius Basterds I approached this film with cautious optimism. But the general public, with the exception of the Spike Lee, seemed to love this film. So last night I sat down and watched it and have to say that Quentin Tarantino is back in form. And with outstanding supporting roles from Samuel L Jackson, Don Johnson, and Walton Goggons just to mention a few. 
     The story follows a partnership between a German Bounty Hunter named Doctor King Schulz [played by Christopher Waltz] and the slave he free's D'Jango [played by Jamie Fox.] Initially he frees D'Jango to help him identify the Brittle Brothers, the bounty he is pursuing. Their partnership soon turns to friendship as Schulz teaches D'Jango the way of a the gun. 
     The story follows them through the south and is set against the horror of slavery. Which is presented masterfully. While entertaining and filled with Tarantino-esque humor  the elements surrounding the horrific way the slaves were treated in the south is notable. The brutality is neither glossed over or exploited and contrary to Spike Lee's assertion that "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. " D'Jango actually brings the brutality of slavery to the forefront of the Western where it is barely mentioned, if at all,, in other Dusters.
     There were scenes in this film that were cringe-worthy, reminding us that this really was America's dark hour. But along the way we are also entertained. I will be going back for a second viewing of this film. In fact I think I am going to dig out all my Tarantino DVD's and binge on the movies with my wife for a day. I'm thinking this Friday will be Quentin Day...
     You're welcome to join us... 

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MJ Preston is the Author of the Horror Novel: THE EQUINOX
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