I admit that I saw the new Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds. Now that I’ve seen it, you don’t have to.
Inglourious Basterds is a cultural low point. It is the revenge fantasy of a poorly educated and completely unreflective thirteen year old. It is a jerky exercise in crudely manipulating the feelings of the audience in order to give them an excuse to hate the bad guys enough to want them brutally and cruelly dispatched.
I did hate the bad guys. But I hated some other things, too.
I hated the way the “good” guys acted.
I hated the way the film was put together.
I hated the extraordinarily hokey job of acting done by one Brad Pitt.
Let me dwell on that Brad Pitt issue for a second. He spends the entire movie oddly grimacing and occasionally growling out a line. Usually a cliche’. He is doing a bad impersonation of a cross between L’il Abner and R. Lee Ermey.
I think the theory of the film is that the Nazis are the one group of bad guys we can all agree were REALLY bad and therefore the audience will have the emotional permission needed to hate these men enough to unreservedly enjoy some completely gratuitous Hollywood graphic violence. I was unable to reach that level. I still had some reservations.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
The plot was a rip-off of the far superior The Dirty Dozen. You remember. All the big Nazis are going to be in one place. Let’s kill ’em all while we have the chance. You’ve seen that movie before. Rest content. You don’t need to see it again.
Though Inglourious Basterds opened big, I don’t think it will carry over. I can’t imagine this film is going to capture many imaginations.
The innovation of this film is that you will see Nazi soldiers dispatched very cruelly and without any human feeling at all. You will see men scalped. You will see the survivors get swastikas carved into their foreheads. You will see a very large man nick-named The Bear Jew beat a Nazi soldier to death berserker-style with a baseball bat because the soldier will not divulge the location of his comrades. This is supposed to be very satisfying though the soldier passively takes the deathblows. Some in the audience cheered. I like seeing bad guys face terrible justice as much as the next guy. But it shouldn’t be filmed as the equivalent of a teenage wilding incident.
The film’s hook is that Brad Pitt and his Nazi hunters go about the countryside catching and killing Nazis. However, we don’t really get to know the men in the squad and most of their action is off camera or has already happened. The film is as much or more about a Jewish woman who survived the shooting of her family to escape into the countryside as it is about the “Basterds”. One has the notion that much of the footage that would help things make sense or help us to care has ended up on the cutting room floor. But one imagines that had to be the case because this is NOT a short film.
On the whole, I wish I’d seen G.I. Joe, instead. You know, the REAL American hero?