Early Reviews Mixed For “Basterds”

Quentin Tarantino’s much anticipated “Inglourious Basterds” WW2 Nazi-bashing flick premiered at Cannes this morning, and now a few hours on the reviews have started coming in.

With someone like Tarantino things are tricky – the director has a huge fanbase and loyal support amongst a good portion of critics, meaning many will spout gushing praise about his work even when it’s not that good.

In recent years however there’s been some notable backpedaling from various reviewers who gushed over the “Kill Bill” saga and “Death Proof” initially but now reluctantly admit they are a long way off from the quality of Tarantino’s 90’s filmography.

Is he one of the most influential directors around? Certainly. Is he one of the great filmmakers? That’s a question more up for debate. His films have such strong supporters and detractors that it’s often difficult to get an objective take on them.

The general consensus with ‘Basterds’ reviews from what I can gather seems to be mixed. Tarantino’s signature over-the-top violence and skill with both monologues and banter are generally lauded, but the pacing, structure and lack of action are notably criticized.

Performances for the most part seem to be well received (Christoph Waltz especially), but the scattershot way in which the characters come and go from the action has drawn complaints. The single most common complaint? “Too much talk, not enough action”.

Amongst the industry trades, Screen Daily says its an “intermittently-inspired” and illustrates Tarantino’s “brilliance and his tendency towards indulgence…the thread of the drama is left disjointed and the focus ever-changing”.

Todd McCarthy at Variety loved the film, saying it is “a surprising, nutty, windy, audacious and a bit caught up in its own cleverness, the picture is a completely distinctive piece of American pop art”. He does cite that the film doesn’t find its tone until halfway through though and could use some trimming before its general release.

The Hollywood Reporter says “the film is by no means terrible…but those things we think of as being Tarantino-esque are largely missing” and “there isn’t much chance of the kind of repeat business Tarantino normally attracts”.

Amongst the mainstream media The Guardian savaged the film, giving it one star and calling it a “colossal armour-plated turkey from hell…It isn’t funny; it isn’t exciting; it isn’t a realistic war movie, yet neither is it an entertaining genre spoof or a clever counterfactual wartime yarn. It isn’t emotionally involving or deliciously ironic or a brilliant tissue of trash-pop references.”

The Telegraph gives it three stars and says “there is far too much yakking, some of it thickly accented and hard to follow, most of it without the rhythmic zing of his best work” and adds that it’s “not so much inglorious as undistinguished”

Time Magazine says “Basterds is long and, for the hypercharged auteur, surprisingly wan. It has to be declared a misfire”. The various conversations “could use either punching up or scrupulous editing”.

The online crowd was a bit more generous as expected, but even they weren’t gushing in their responses.

IGN gives it a 3.5/5 and calls it an “entertaining yet uneven movie” which is “lacking the requisite action and spectacle to truly to make it a classic of the genre”. The site praises all the performances bar Pitt, criticizes its “flat mid-section”, and felt a scene with undercover UK agents in a bar didn’t click whereas almost every other review praised said sequence.

Empire Online loved it, saying it is a “wonderfully-acted movie that subverts expectation at every turn” while the farmhouse and French bar sequences are “scenes are as tense as anything Tarantino has ever done in his career/”

Finally Hollywood Elsewhere says “It’s not great. It’s a fairly engaging Quentin chit-chat personality film in World War II dress-up. It’s arch and very confidently rendered from QT’s end, but it’s basically talk, talk, talk…brisk repartee does not a solid movie make.”