By no means should it be considered as one of Quentin Tarantino’s best films, but it’s not without its merits. However, I think the film struggles with a somewhat inconsistent approach. Intended as a homage to 1970’s elaxploitation films (with a star of such films in the lead role), the film starts off with a slightly comedic approach, and then shifts towards being a gangster film with elements exploitation cinema. It utilizes typical hallmarks of the Tarantino film, including slow pace, pop culture references, foul-mouthed characters, and non-linear storytelling.
Right off the bat, however, I think the main problem is that the film is far too long for what it is. I think the film would have been better if it were at least half an hour shorter, instead of clocking in at 154 minutes. It doesn’t help that the film moves along at a plodding pace, and that makes the story much harder to follow then it should have been. For me, it seems as though Tarantino was basically copying such lengthy gangster films as Casino, Goodfellas, and The Godfather films, and attempting to reconstitute the style of the gangster film in the context of a 1970’s-style blaxploitation film, except that most films from that genre were a lot shorter and faster.
The characters embody stereotypes from various films, though they illustrate a kind of middle-aged world-weariness with some degree of realism. The acting in this film has a certain mature kind of boldness, even with the film’s coarse language (and copious use the “N” word). The fact that the cast of the film manages to convincingly portray the raw personality of its lowlife characters is something that makes up for the film’s languid pace, and as usual, you can count on Samuel L. Jackson, whose performance in the film might be one of the film’s saving graces (although Pam Grier did pretty well as the eponymous lead role).
The other saving grace would be the film’s sense of style. It opens with a retro style title screen, and sets the mood with a soaring soul song. The film in general has the look and sound of a well-made production, with the film’s soundtrack contributing much to the overall feel of the film. However, that is a mainly stylistic accomplishment, and even then, it seems as though the film is more of an awkward pastiche of the genre it was trying to emulate. It’s also not as violent as the films it was emulating, which, considering the film’s length, might not be such a bad thing.
If anything, this film has the whole “play it cool” approach, but it takes things way too slowly, and the result is an ambitious project that wound up being a little overdone. Again, I must insist that despite those flaws, it’s not a terrible film. In fact, with its slick style and humour, and its blending of crime fiction and midlife drama, it stands out as a witty, entertaining, though sometimes languid crime film.
- Score: 67%
- Grade: C