Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

I had to see this film, not out of any affection for Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof sucked so hard, I ended up fast-forwarding the DVD to the end, something I almost never do), but due to childhood memories of the original Italian movie. I saw The Inglorious Bastards numerous times as a kid, since , besides being just the kind of cheap knockoff of WWII commando movies that I love, it also had a scene where the heroes nearly get killed by machine gun-wielding topless German maidens frolicking in a stream. Back in my day, we didn't have "bittorrents" or "Redtube" - we had Eurotrash titties, and they were pimply and pasty, and you only got to see a second of them, and WE LIKED IT!

So like any other right-headed American boy obsessed with floppy titties and dead Nazis, I loved The Inglorious Bastards, and had to see the Tarantino remake. Turns out though that Inglorious Basterds has absolutely nothing to do with the original, being an entirely new story consisting of two different plotlines - a French Jewish girl escaping an SS intelligence officer, and "The Basterds" a special American unit of Jews terrorizing the Nazis in occupied France - that converge upon the gala screening of a Nazi propaganda film that provides the opportunity for both the girl and the Basterds to take down the Nazi elite in a fiery Götterdämmerung. And it's all completely mediocre.

I mean that literally, not as a synonym for "bad" because this is a mostly well-acted and executed movie. Despite its 2.5 hour length, I felt it moved speedily along and was (mostly) interested in every scene. Of the performances, much has been made of Christoph Waltz as the "Jew Hunter", but just because an actor doesn't devolve into a Germanic Snidely Whiplash as soon as he puts on SS black, doesn't make him Oscar-quality. Brad Pitt tries well, but he ain't no Lee Marvin. Melanie Laurent gives the best performance of the film, which is not surprising as the most fully-realized and only human character amongst a cast of caricatures.

A movie about burning/blowing up a Parisian theater full of Nazis is not a bad idea, but it is not original nor is Inglorious Basterdds interesting enough to be elevated above its mediocre lineage. Tarantino's direction doesn't even try to elevate Inglorious Basterds above the spaghetti war-xploitation genre. It's not funny enough to be parody, and not biting enough to be satire - although the Nazi film-within-the-film, Nation's Pride, does a spot-on eviscerating of American war films like Black Hawk Down and even Saving Private Ryan, where faceless enemies are gunned down in exacting detail by amoral patriots:

But don't be fooled - this film isn't about the dangers of war as spectacle, or anything else deeper than how far one can bury a baseball bat through a Nazi's head. And even that is pretty tepid - while the violence sometimes goes over the top and there's lots of loving shots of scalping and carving swastikas into foreheads, Inglorious Basterds is surprisingly violence-free. So the gore-porners will be disappointed by all the talking, and the history nerds will have heart attacks over what may be the most ahistorical WWII film ever made, leaving this film only for douchebag hipsters who think Tarantino is still relevant. Or even still trying.

All this said, I can't fault Inglorious Basterds for not being more than it appears to be. It's a dumb over-the-top WWII spaghetti western with Nazis instead of bandits and Schmeissers instead of six-guns. It's also talky as hell, and not as full of action as represented. It's not really stimulating, either to the intellect or the testosterone, but if you really love watching Nazis get murdered in every manner imaginable, you might like this flick. I do, and I did, but even I could've done with it as a rental.

1 comment:

jason said...

I totally agree with you. This movie seemed just so disjointed at times, and oddly piecemeal. From the spaghetti western soundtrack (which includes a riff from 1981's The Entity) to the wtf is Brad Pitt supposed to be, this movie left me feeling pretty "meh" about it.

and I love machine gunning Nazi hordes...