Monthly Archives: October 2003

Too Placid

The Rage in Placid Lake (Tony McNamara, 2003)

Writer-director Tony McNamara’s amiable but shallow coming of age film tells the story of Placid Lake (Ben Lee), who has been bullied throughout his formative years. After a particularly violent confrontation at the end of his final year of high school, he undergoes an epiphany: he needs to try to fit in to normal society. So he abandons (or at least attempts to abandon) his unconventional ways, opting to go corporate and take a menial clerical job at the Icarus insurance company.

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Half Dead

Kill Bill, Volume 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)

Volume 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s bisected Kill Bill is at once less than I hoped, and better than I feared. Tarantino’s first three full-length films – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown – were amongst the best films of the last decade, but the possibility loomed that Kill Bill would favour all his worst instincts. Tarantino’s stated intent was a large-scale tribute to Asian exploitation movies, and the danger with such a project was that it would leach the substance from his work and leave only the sensationalism. After all, there was the clear precedent of his 1996 collaboration with Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk Till Dawn. That film was a tribute to lurid horror movies, and while cleverly done, it’s also a rather unpleasant and barren film. I feared Kill Bill would follow that pattern.

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Dirty Dogs

Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)

The problem with reviewing Reservoir Dogs is that right from its release in 1992, even its detractors generally agreed what its merits were: to review it risks simply listing them. Tarantino, in his first film, had shown he had a good eye for direction, and that he could write slick dialogue that was heavily laden with pop-culture references. He was capable with actors, or at least had a good eye for casting, with the ensemble he assembled here somehow already having the feel of a repertory company (looking back, what is surprising is how few of these actors he actually went on to use in his subsequent movies). And everyone agreed he had a talent for narrative: scrambling chronologies with confidence, he had crafted a taut thriller on a low budget. This is not to say that everyone loved or even liked the film, but rather that its detractors – many of whom remain vocal over a decade later – tended to react not to Tarantino’s technical skills, but rather to the personality that they perceived the film as embodying.

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