Lead Nazi slayer Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, addresses his merry band of Nazi slayers in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” one of Tarantino’s less gory — and lesser — endeavors (which at least came to us in just one part…).
As I have noted before, I think that they make way too Holocaust-themed movies. No, I’m not anti-Semitic, and no, I’m not a Holocaust denier, and it’s sad that I have to state that up front.
It’s that the Holocaust has been done.
But I’m a Quentin Tarantino fan, and so I saw “Inglourious Basterds” on its opening weekend.
I love ya, Quentin, but I can give “Basterds” only a “B.”
“Basterds” starts out promisingly. The opening scene, in which Nazis search for Jews being hidden at a French farmhouse, at first seems overlong, but then you realize that Tarantino got it just right.
And then it looks like the entire movie, or most of it, anyway, is going to be about Brad Pitt, who plays an American named Lt. Aldo Raine with a hick accent who is something like Robin Hood leading a band of merry men, only this Robin Hood and these merry men (who call themselves the “Inglourious Basterds”) don’t steal from the rich and give to the poor, but they hunt, kill and scalp — yes, scalp — Nazis in Nazi-occupied France. And most of these Nazi slayers are Jews.
But after teasing us with this novel slant on the whole Holocaust-movie thing, “Basterds” then goes into a much-less-interesting and less novel direction involving a young Jewish woman named Shosanna (well-played by Melanie Laurent) who survived the Nazis’ slaughter of her family and who plots her revenge when the premiere of a Nazi propaganda film is slated to be shown in the movie theater that she owns and operates in France.
Pitt and his band of merry Nazi killers come back into the movie, but only after we’ve been fairly bored by the whole movie-theater subplot.
Pitt does a kick-ass job in “Basterds,” as does Christoph Waltz as Nazi Col. Hans Landa, the “Jew hunter,” whose Oscar-worthy role runs throughout the entire film. It is largely on the strength of the performances that I can give “Basterds” a “B.”
Also doing a great job are Eli Roth as the “Bear Jew,” who takes a baseball bat to Nazis’ craniums, and Til Schweiger as former Nazi Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, who for some reason decided to turn on his fellow Nazi officers and start terminating them (whether he opposed their “cause” or whether he is just psychopathic is not clear to me) before he was taken in by the Basterds. I wanted to see much more of these two characters and I was disappointed to see one of them terminated too early and too ingloriously.
Also interesting about “Basterds” is Tarantino’s reinterpretation of Adolf Hitler (played by Martin Wuttke) as a perpetually fuming and sputtering tyrant hilariously (darkly so) replete with a red monarch’s cape. (Tarantino also reinterprets the history of Hitler in an interesting way that I can’t tell you about, because it would give away the ending of the movie…)
Mike Myers (yes, the “Austin Powers” Mike Myers) makes an appearance as a British general that is supposed to be quirky, I think, but is more throwaway than quirky.
Tarantino’s re-envisioned Hitler and his twisted version of Robin Hood and his band of merry men alone make “Basterds” worth seeing — and I must admit that it’s hard not to feel some amount of glee to witness Nazis being exterminated like the cockroaches that they were — but “Basterds” has too much that isn’t that interesting and doesn’t measure up to what we’re used to getting from Tarantino, so it misses an “A” for me.
Maybe the uninteresting portions of “Basterds” were Tarantino’s attempt to be a more “serious” director? If so, well, he should have stuck to what he does best. There is no shortage of “serious,” “respectable” movies about the Nazis and the Holocaust out there.
“Kill Bill,” to me, still remains Tarantino’s best work to date.
My grade: B