Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse double bill was a bit of a turkey at the US box office, and now the Times reports that Momentum have cancelled the scheduled UK release on 1 June. The new line is that "it will definitely be released here but we don't know in what form."

One suggestion being mooted in America, after the disastrous box office takings, was to release the two films separately. Presumably that's what they're thinking of. But everything I've heard about Grindhouse suggests that the (admittedly inordinate) length was only part of the problem.

I'd never heard of a grindhouse before, and nor have most other people. With scratches, missing reels, fake trailers and other assorted gimmickry, Tarantino and Rodriguez have produced a nostalgic tribute to something for which virtually nobody has any nostalgia, outside the most hardcore film geeks. You can't sell a film on that basis.

Tarantino's always been big on film references, or the outright recycling of ideas from other people's films. But in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, he uses them to tell a story. The references and homages in those films are never allowed to overshadow the main point of the film. They're either easter eggs, or source material where Tarantino has found a good plot point or storytelling idea that he decides to recycle. This is fine.

Kill Bill, on the other hand, I have real trouble with. It's still got a lot going for it, but watching that film, I'm left with the impression that Quentin Tarantino wants to show me his video collection for three hours, and he's going to hit me repeatedly with a sledgehammer until I agree that it's just fantastic. Kill Bill isn't much good, judged as a story. It doesn't have the great dialogue of the earlier films. It works as a visual spectacle, but that's about it, unless you find the mere quoting of films to be an absolutely thrilling way to spend an evening. I don't much like it.

Grindhouse sounds alarmingly like more of the same, only much, much worse. I can't honestly say I've got the slightest interest in seeing it. He got away with this once with Kill Bill, but gimmicky homages are a dead end in the long run.