Quentin Tarantino’s first paid writing assignment is 20 this month. How do the tits, teeth and that tattoo stand up? Karen Campbell investigates.
What and why: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s uber-violent, disturbing road-trip movie that flips on its head halfway through to become a full-on vampire gore-fest, littered with tits, snakes, more tits and a bad-ass George Clooney.
It follows the infamous Gecko brothers Seth (Clooney) and Richie (Tarantino) who rob, kill and kidnap their way across America. We meet them in Texas where we soon learn that Richie is a disturbed, mentally ill sexual predator and Seth, although violent, has some morals and a deep loyalty to his brother.
The pair need to get over the border to Mexico and to do this hijack ex-pastor Jacob Fuller’s (the as-always amazing Harvey Keitel) motorhome complete with his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and son, Scott (Ernest Liu).
What greets the fivesome over the border is a bit of a shocker and I definitely remember losing a lot of popcorn in the cinema as my mouth hit the floor.
The brothers have arranged to meet their contact at the classily named Titty Twister club at dawn, so they hole up for the night surrounded by dancing girls, bottles of whiskey and a scene-stealing Salma Hayek in a gold bikini with snake. Casual.
Then it happens. The film turns into a B-movie horror flick with hot girls, barmen and drinkers all turning into vampires with only a handful of ‘humans’ (including our favourite five who are now getting on quite well despite the previous raping and killing tendencies) to defeat them. And defeat them they do, but not without losing Richie (yay!), as well as papa and son Fuller along the way.
After 20 years, this bonkers film needed a rewatch. Will Clooney and that tattoo be still so goddamn hot? Will it be so severely dated that it’s comical? Here goes.
Rated or dated: I thought I’d find it lighter on a rewatch, but I forgot who I was dealing with. When are Rodriguez and Tarantino ever light? In fact, I found it a lot more disturbing, especially in the first half.
Tarantino’s Richie is skin-crawlingly revolting and he definitely creeped me out more than I ever remembered. But I guess that was the point and Tarantino is brilliant at it. Clooney is also amazing (and still hot, hurrah!), playing Seth with layered emotions and flickers of good: “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.”
I wish this was two separate films as the first half is an absorbing road-trip movie with such dark undertones it sizzles. I think Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s recent Golden Globe-winning turn in Nocturnal Animals definitely nods to Tarantino’s Richie.
The script (all Tarantino’s work) sparks and intrigues, with both his and Clooney’s chemistry lighting up the screen. Juliette Lewis is a thing of wonder as the innocent yet wise pastor’s daughter whose excitement and kick-assness builds as the film progresses, culminating in her and Seth’s victorious dawn outside the burnt down Titty Twister, covered in blood and vampire gore.
The events at the Titty Twister are laugh-out-loud camp and gory, intentionally so, and you can almost hear Tarantino and Rodriguez’s delight at being able to blow up vampires (green blood and all), introduce a cock-pistol wearing guy called ‘Sex Machine’ and see Salma Hayek (still clad in gold bikini) give Clooney a good kicking.
I love this film. Yes, there are too many nearly nude women in pants grinding away, but it’s so overplayed it sort of is and isn’t sexist. And yes, it’s utterly ridiculous. But to be able to get that cast performing at that level with one of the best scripts Tarantino has ever produced? It’s a thing of wonder. RATED.
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Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.