Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood (****)

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Tarantino's latest effort provides more excitement than his The Hateful Eight if less than his other films.

It's drawn out. Don't be in a rush. Live in the moment, most of the film is there for its own sake rather than adding up to something. Tarantino's digression-to-violence ratio has always been far higher than you remember, ever since that first Reservoir Dogs "all the violent bits" trailer gave a false impression. This one, however, approaches Coen Brothers levels of not-going-anywhere-particular-just-enjoy-it-or-don't. The comedy, the stylistic detail, the intercut stories, they're all great and there is a lot of innocent and guilty pleasure in this film, but there's no scene with the unbearable ratcheting tension you get in, say, the basement bar in Inglourious Basterds, with its unhurried but inexorable build-up to a violent climax.

The whole thing probably feels more like one long tense buildup if you know a lot about the Manson Family murders, but being someone who Wikipedia'd most of the details afterwards, this film felt more mellow and less tense than any of Tarantino's previous emissions. (Such is my ignorance that I was very slow on the uptake at one point that we were meeting Manson's cult, and not, in fact, some bunch of generic Californ-I-A hippies.) There is nevertheless one major burst of Tarantino violence, so don't take your nan along, unless she rocks harder than you. Perhaps the film relies too heavily on the mostly off-screen shade of Manson for its villain - I missed someone with the on-screen menace of a Jackson or a DiCaprio. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent in this film, but he's not the bad guy this time.

The performances are fine all round from one heck of an ensemble cast. It's nice to see head stunt coordinator Zoë Bell onscreen and speaking again after her long stint in front of the cameras in Death Proof. However, the whole film has a distinctly Hollywood-insider feel, even more so when you check the cast list and see offspring of Andie Macdowell, of Bruce Willis, of Uma 'n' Ethan... not that anyone lets the side down on the acting front.

Bruce Lee is not a religious icon. It's OK to mock him a bit. It's not like he's accused of anything slanderous in his cameo here. Listening to the martial arts bores of my acquaintance squawking about The Blasphemy has been one of those aforementioned guilty pleasures. His hands are lethal weapons, you know.

If you think Tarantino has been or should be "cancelled", this film won't particularly change your mind; for example he doesn't add to the active women's roles he created with Pam Grier and Uma Thurman and Zoë Bell, and unusually for Tarantino, *most* of the violent screen time affects women (a statement only otherwise true of the Kill Bills, off the top of my head, which to be fair does have female action leads). And although no one's significantly underdressed, that camera of his is at its sleaziest, second among his films only to Death Proof, which at least had the thematic excuse of being *about* a sleaze.

Tarantino doesn't particularly get under the skin of *why* both Hollywood and the Manson Family, in their different cultish ways, stand or fall on women doing what they're told, despite depicting a bit of both and subtly making the connection. But if you think he's "lost it", as someone seems to say with every post-Pulp Fiction film he releases, any of his films should change your mind, this one included. It's beautifully made and scripted and bears many of his signatures, including some of the ones causing controversy.

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Read 509 times Last modified on Wednesday, 21 August 2019 14:10
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