Quentin Tarantino Criticism - Essay

Kenneth Turan (review date 23 October 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'Reservoir Dogs,' Tarantino's Brash Debut Film, Announces a Director to Be Reckoned With," in Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1992, pp. F1, F14.

[In the following review, Turan offers qualified evaluation of Reservoir Dogs. While praising Tarantino's "undeniable skill," Turan objects to his preoccupation with "operatic violence."]

Like it or not (and many people will have their doubts), writer-director Quentin Tarantino has arrived, in your face and on the screen. His brash debut film, Reservoir Dogs, a showy but insubstantial comic opera of violence, is as much a calling card as a movie, an audacious high-wire act announcing that he is here and...

(The entire section is 872 words.)

Manohla Dargis (essay date November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blonde?," in Artforum, Vol. 31, No. 3, November, 1992, p. 11.

[In the following essay, Dargis examines the depiction of male violence in Reservoir Dogs.]

Let me tell you what "Like a Virgin"'s about. It's about this cooz who's a regular fuckin' machine. I'm talkin' mornin' day night afternoon dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick.

Then one day she meets this John Holmes motherfucker and it's like, Whoa baby. I mean this cat is like Charles Bronson in The Great Escape: he's diggin' tunnels. All right, she's gettin' some serious dick action and she's feelin'...

(The entire section is 1226 words.)

Stanley Kauffmann (review date 23 November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Blood Lines," in New Republic, November 23, 1992, pp. 30-1.

[In the following review, Kauffmann offers tempered praise for Reservoir Dogs.]

How happy the human race must be these days. Photography and cinematography have done so much to further our age-old appetite for the sanguine. It's as if, after many centuries of waiting, those of us who do not actually hack or bludgeon now have the chance to see the hacked and bludgeoned. The latest Granta has a piece by Luc Sante—part of a new book called Evidence—that consists of police-file photographs of murder victims with his critical comments on them. In his aesthetic study of these...

(The entire section is 1143 words.)

Jonathan Romney (review date 8 January 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Partners in Crime," in New Statesman & Society, January 8, 1993, pp. 34, 36.

[In the following review, Romney offers favorable assessment of Reservoir Dogs.]

Who said the devil doesn't have all the best tunes? In 1971, A Clockwork Orange shocked everyone rigid because its droog Alex liked to choreograph his ultraviolence to a Beethoven soundtrack. Twenty years on, things are a little more flip. In Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (on general release), Michael Madsen's psycho gangster Mr Blonde tortures a policeman to Stealer's Wheel singing "Stuck In The Middle with You".

It's a deeply unsettling scene to watch, not just...

(The entire section is 657 words.)

Kenneth Turan (review date 10 September 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Gunfight at the Hokey Corral," in Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1993, pp. F1, F8.

[In the following review, Turan offers negative assessment of True Romance.]

It is hard to say what is more dispiriting about True Romance, the movie itself or the fact that someone somewhere is sure to applaud its hollow, dime-store nihilism and smug pseudo-hip posturing as a bright new day in American cinema.

In truth this latest example of Hollywood's growing fascination with Bad Boy Chic (the kind of films where the men are violence-prone misfits and the women gasp and coo) has all the originality of a paper cup. A derivative dead end that pushes...

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Richard Alleva (review date 22 October 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Smut in Your Eye: Scott's 'True Romance,'" in Commonweal, October 22, 1993, pp. 22-4.

[In the following review, Alleva offers unfavorable evaluation of True Romance.]

Want to feel like a fool? Go see True Romance. That will do the trick.

For starters, there's the fictional company you will have to keep. The hero is an Elvis-obsessed, moronic piece of white trash named Clarence Worley who, when he's not clerking in a comic-book store (where he reverently samples the product), doesn't get out of his apartment much, although he always treats himself to a Kung-fu triple feature on his birthday. And, get this, his favorite chop-socky star...

(The entire section is 1558 words.)

David Denby (review date 3 October 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Thugfest," in New York, October 3, 1994, pp. 96-9.

[In the following review, Denby offers favorable evaluation of Pulp Fiction.]

It's not hard to see why actors have been eager to work with the young writer-director Quentin Tarantino. A bad-boy entertainer, "dark" but playful, Tarantino writes an American gutter rant—golden arias of vituperation interlaced with patches of odd, hilarious formality (the formality functions like an outbreak of classical movement in the middle of a modern-dance concert). His latest, Pulp Fiction, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes last spring and just opened the New York Film Festival, is an ecstatically entertaining...

(The entire section is 1649 words.)

Peter Travers (review date 6 October 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tarantino's Twist," in Rolling Stone, October 6, 1994, pp. 79-81.

[In the following review, Travers offers high praise for Pulp Fiction.]

Now that Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, opened the New York Film Festival and made the former video-store clerk a name to suck up to big time in Hollywood, you're probably thinking the writer-director of Reservoir Dogs has sold out his renegade ass. Think again. The proudly disreputable Pulp Fiction (cost: a measly $8 million) is the new King Kong of crime movies. It's an anthology that blends three stories and 12 principal characters into a mesmerizing mosaic of the...

(The entire section is 1152 words.)

Jonathan Romney (review date 8 October 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Real Hamburger of a Movie," in New Statesman & Society, October 8, 1994, p. 29.

[In the following review, Romney offers unfavorable assessment of Pulp Fiction.]

I don't have that much to say about Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, but that's OK, because it has plenty to say for itself. Watching it is like sitting in a diner for hours on end while the guy opposite you simultaneously gabbles away, stuffs his face and juggles balls. Sort of how you'd imagine a dinner date with Tarantino to be.

I loved Reservoir Dogs. Loved the suits, loved the pace, loved the bloodshed, loved the shock of alarm when the film suddenly made you...

(The entire section is 957 words.)

David Wild (essay date 3 November 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Quentin Tarantino," in Rolling Stone, November 3, 1994, pp. 76-78, 80-1, 110.

[In the following essay, Wild discusses Tarantino's films, career, and artistic influences.]

Quentin Tarantino, madman of movie mayhem, has a mother. How's that for a shocker? She has seen Reservoir Dogs, the 1992 heist film that made a cult sensation of her writer-director-actor son and raised the stakes on movie gore with a 10-minute torture scene featuring the severing of an ear. "That happens to be my mother's favorite scene," says Tarantino, 31, a high-school dropout who has gone from video-store clerk to genius auteur du jour in just a few feverishly busy years. Mom has...

(The entire section is 4276 words.)

T. J. Binyon (review date 11 November 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hot Shot," in Times Literary Supplement, November 11, 1994, p. 26.

[In the following review, Binyon offers favorable assessment of Pulp Fiction.]

Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Pulp Fiction, opens and closes in a Los Angeles coffee shop. In the prologue, a young couple, Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer), are contemplating over breakfast a change in business methods: robbing coffee shops instead of liquor stores. Two and a half hours later, the epilogue returns to the same place at the same time. Drawing their 32s, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny leap on to the coffee-shop tables to put theory into practice. Within this circular frame three...

(The entire section is 1078 words.)

Stanley Kauffmann (review date 14 November 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Shooting Up," in New Republic, November 14, 1994, pp. 26-7.]

[In the following review, Kauffmann offers unfavorable evaluation of Pulp Fiction.]

By now everybody knows that Quentin Tarantino is the happiest man in the world. Not so many years ago he was a clerk in a California video store, devouring film film film. Then he tried to break into filmmaking himself, first by writing scripts. It took years to get in. But those video days and the buff-dom of his boyhood sustained him, and now he is where he dreamed of being. He is making the films that will stock those video stores. Some younger aspirant will sell Tarantino tapes.

About his grit...

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Richard Alleva (review date 18 November 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Beaten to a Pulp," in Commonweal, November 18, 1994, pp. 30-1.

[In the following review, Alleva offers favorable evaluation of Pulp Fiction.]

Maybe you have to be able to see through Quentin Tarantino before you can enjoy him. Like all his previous movies, Pulp Fiction is packed with violent larcenies, shootouts, drug deals, mob executions, gangland politicking, and (a Tarantino specialty) heavy-duty, sadistically gloating speeches made by hitmen to their victims just before the bullet to the brain is dispatched. No wonder that this latest Hollywood wunderkind has been labeled the "hot high priest of film ultra-violence," "the Sultan of Sadism,"...

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Dennis Cooper (essay date March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Minor Magic," in Artforum, Vol. 33, No. 7, March, 1995, pp. 63-6, 110.

[In the following essay, Cooper discusses the appeal of Tarantino's dialogue and cinematic presentation.]

There should be a dozen youngish American filmmakers as inspired as Quentin Tarantino. Then it would be easier to designate him a quirkily brilliant minor director, which is what he is. But even with his rather glaring limitations—stagey archetypal characters, short- and long-term memory problems, a lazy visual sense—there's so much finely tuned energy in his films compared to most of his contemporaries. Tarantino really is one of the few post-Martin Scorsese directors capable of...

(The entire section is 941 words.)

Gary Indiana (essay date March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Geek Chic," in Artforum, Vol. 33, No. 7, March, 1995, pp. 63-6, 104, 108.

[In the following essay. Indiana discusses the depiction of black experience, violence, and masculinity in Tarantino's films.]

Like O.J. Simpson and Newt Gingrich, Quentin Tarantino has become one of those cosmically disseminated mirages that even the most resolute ascetic living in a hole somewhere becomes aware of "through the media." For us ordinary folks who consume magazines and TV programs haphazardly, he—like O.J., like Newt—has acquired the pull of a vortex into which all conversation eventually spills. Edgy from coffee nerves, verbally diarrheic, a study in hip geekiness or...

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Robin Wood (essay date March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Slick Shtick," in Artforum, Vol. 33, No. 7, March, 1995, pp. 63-6, 110.

[In the following essay, Wood discusses elements of satire, violence, and homophobia in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.]

American culture generally enjoys cleverness: it is so much easier to grasp than real intelligence, so much less challenging and dangerous. Cleverness doesn't disturb, it keeps people happy, gives them "kicks," it's all slick fun. And Americans are supposed to be happy—isn't this the land of equal opportunity, so if you're not happy it's your own fault, there must be something wrong with you. Cleverness helps you to forget that things might be different,...

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Jack Mathews (review date 25 December 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'Four Rooms' No Showcase for Quartet of Filmmakers," in Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1996, p. F12.

[In the following review, Mathews offers negative assessment of Four Rooms.]

Alexandre Rockwell, who came up with the idea for the anthology comedy Four Rooms, says of the characters in his segment, "They are walking the line, and when you walk the line, sometimes you fall into hell and sometimes you trip into heaven."

Moviegoers run the same risk every time they plunk down the price of a ticket, and those who do so for this film will soon feel the heat of Satan's breath.

It's not enough to say that Four Rooms...

(The entire section is 811 words.)

Jack Mathews (review date 19 January 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Add Horror, Drama, Robbers, a Biker Bar; Blend on High," in Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1996, pp. F1, F8.

[In the following review, Mathews offers unfavorable assessment of From Dusk Till Dawn.]

As both a veteran video store clerk and movie junkie, Quentin Tarantino knows that "The Desperate Hours" belongs in the drama section and "Night of the Living Dead" in the horror. So where, if he had his old job, would he rack Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn, which, in the blink of an eye, shifts from the first genre to the second, all in the name of comedy?

Tarantino wrote From Dusk Till Dawn in 1990 for a reported fee of...

(The entire section is 728 words.)

Lyall Bush (essay date January-February 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Doing Brando," in Film Comment, Vol. 32, No. 1, January-February, 1996, pp. 83-8.

[In the following essay, Bush examines the persona of violent male characters in Tarantino's films, especially as derived from earlier crime genre films and performances by Marlon Brando.]

Back in the early Fifties, a solid decade before Quentin Tarantino was born into Knoxville, Tennessee poverty, Marlon Brando, young and still hard, was re-surveying the horizon of passion for postwar American men. He carved out low swales of improvisatory naturalism, and shaped patches of dark mumbling where rash and grievous outbursts could feel at home with the new Beat preference for the raw...

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Lynn Hirschberg (interview date 16 November 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Man Who Changed Everything," in New York Times Magazine, November 16, 1997, pp. 112, 114-5, 117.

[In the following interview, Tarantino discusses his films and the Hollywood movie industry.]

Quentin Tarantino, in shorts and a T-shirt, is padding around his palatial mansion in the Hollywood Hills on a Sunday afternoon in late October. He has lived here less than a year, and the previous occupant, the pop singer Richard Marx, left most of his overstuffed furniture behind. Tarantino has added some touches: movie posters are strewn everywhere; there are bronze sculptures of characters from Reservoir Dogs, his first movie, and Pulp Fiction; a...

(The entire section is 3589 words.)

Todd McCarthy (review date 22 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Jackie Brown, in Variety, December 22, 1997, pp. 57-8.

[In the following review, McCarthy offers tempered criticism of Jackie Brown.]

Facing the daunting task of making a third feature that could measure up to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, not to mention one that would disarm the detractors ready to pounce on him no matter what, Quentin Tarantino treads turf that is both familiar and fresh in Jackie Brown. Unquestionably too long, and lacking the snap and audaciousness of the pictures that made him the talk of the town, this narratively faithful but conceptually imaginative adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum...

(The entire section is 1299 words.)

Kenneth Turan (review date 24 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tarantino Lets Attitude Show in 'Jackie,'" in Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1997, pp. F2, F12.

[In the following review, Turan offers unfavorable assessment of Jackie Brown.]

Unlikely as it sounds, Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's idea of a nice film. Not that it's everyone's idea of nice: This hotbed of industrial-strength profanity isn't headed for the Disney Channel any time soon. But motivating the writer-director here is not his usual impulse toward outrageousness but what has to be called a sweet desire to pay tribute to two key influences in his creative life, writer Elmore Leonard and star Pam Grier.

This is Tarantino's...

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Todd F. Davis and Kenneth Womack (essay date January 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sheparding the Weak: The Ethics of Redemption in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction," in Literature-Film Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1, January, 1998, pp. 60-6.

[In the following essay, Davis and Womack explore themes of moral development and spiritual conversion in Pulp Fiction. According to the critics, "Beyond the hazy lens of Tarantino's deliberately dark gangland tableau … Pulp Fiction proffers a fictional universe where miracles still happen, where love can still make a difference."]

Although a number of critics in the popular press laud Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) for its non-linear narrative, quirky performances, and...

(The entire section is 3811 words.)

Peter Travers (review date 22 January 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Return of a Foxy Mama," in Rolling Stone, January 22, 1998, pp. 61-2.

[In the following review, Travers offers high praise for Jackie Brown.]

Sorry to disappoint those who longed to see Quentin Tarantino fall on his famously flashy ass, but the overlong, overindulgent Jackie Brown—the Q man's first feature as a writer and director since Pulp Fiction, in 1994—scores a knockout just the same. Loaded with action, laughs, smart dialogue and potent performances, Jackie Brown is most memorable for its unexpected feeling. Tarantino adapts Elmore Leonard's 1992 crime novel, Rum Punch, without losing the author's compassion for...

(The entire section is 809 words.)