Total Recall: Quentin Tarantino's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Django Unchained director.
Since making his debut with Reservoir Dogs 20 years ago, Quentin Tarantino has enjoyed one of the fastest-rising -- and consistently critically lauded -- careers of any director in modern Hollywood. He's back this weekend with the Jamie Foxx-led revenge fantasy Western Django Unchained, and the reviews are typically solid -- which means now is the perfect time to dedicate a feature to taking a fond look back at his earlier efforts. So cover the kids' ears and keep an eye on Marvin in the back seat, because this week, we're serving up Total Recall Tarantino style!
8. Four Rooms
The appeal of anthology films -- that audiences can see the work of multiple directors under one narrative umbrella -- can also be one of their major drawbacks: The results, as in 1995's Four Rooms, often strike some viewers as wildly, painfully uneven. As this particular outing proved, success isn't guaranteed even if you bring together a handful of the industry's most critically beloved and/or commercially ascendant filmmakers; although Four Rooms united Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell to tell the promise-rich tale of a beleaguered bellhop (Tim Roth) making his way through a series of progressively weirder hotel rooms on New Year's Eve, only Rodriguez's segment escaped heaps of withering critical scorn, and the film barely eked out $4 million at the box office. But a 14 percent Tomatometer rating means that a few critics liked it -- such as Boxoffice Magazine's Shlomo Schwartzberg, who shrugged and said, "As a whole, Four Rooms is only diverting, and pretty mindless, but at its best it's a lot of fun."
Forged by the bond of friendship between Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez -- as well as their shared love of sloppy, bloody, low-budget exploitation flicks -- 2007's Grindhouse found the two directors splitting a three-hour double bill that took audiences from cheeky zombie terror (Rodriguez's Planet Terror) to seethingly violent high-octane action (Tarantino's Death Proof). At 65 percent, Tarantino's half of Grindhouse got the short end of the Tomatometer stick, but plenty of critics still enjoyed his gleefully depraved look at a homicidal stuntman (Kurt Russell) with a fondness for murdering young ladies. "I've rarely seen a filmmaker, in current Hollywood at least, expose his sexual and sadistic kinks on screen with such shameless glee," observed an admiring Kevin N. Laforest for the Montreal Film Journal.
Six months after kicking off his Kill Bill revenge saga with Volume 1, Tarantino returned to theaters with its conclusion. Part kung fu brawl, part origin story, Kill Bill: Volume 2 fills in the blanks of its katana-wielding protagonist's (Uma Thurman) past while she slices and dices her way to whatever passes for redemption. Clocking in at over four hours between the two installments, it's a pretty hefty cinematic experience for something that boils down to a fairly simple tale, but most critics didn't mind at all -- in fact, Volume 2 performed nearly as well as its predecessor on the Tomatometer. As Jeremy Heilman of MovieMartyr argued, "The massive combination of the first and second Kill Bill movies stands as a testament to both Tarantino's exceptional skill as a filmmaker and the possibilities of pop cinema."
After an interminable-seeming six-year wait following Jackie Brown, Tarantino re-emerged with a blood-spattered martial arts epic so sprawling it needed to be chopped in half. Enter 2003's Kill Bill: Volume 1, starring Uma Thurman as an assassin whose plans to leave the fold for a life of wedded bliss hit a snag when her mentor (David Carradine) decides he'd rather have her dead than retired, and sends her fellow killers-for-hire (played by Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, and Michael Madsen) to put a permanent stop to the nuptials. After watching Thurman's take-no-prisoners performance, the New York Observer's Andrew Sarris couldn't help but say, "I would argue that, in a bizarre way, Mr. Tarantino empowers women as no action-genre director before him ever has."