Hollywood's two most indulged enfant terrible filmmakers have now made the worst two World War II movies of this millennium. With Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino has topped Spike Lee (Miracle at St. Anna) in awfulness.
Tarantino has remade a really bad Italian-made WWII thriller into an intentionally dumb and violent shoot-'em up with barely a hint of the original film. And he remade it at quarter-speed. Inglourious is slow, dumb and, in a first for QT in his cinema savant career, incompetent.
From the first image in it — a French farmer chopping wood, with no wood to chop (he just whacks a chopping block) — Tarantino acts as if he's determined to match the 1978 Inglorious Bastards in ineptitude.
The Nazis wear leather, love their strudel and have impeccable manners as they carry out The Final Solution. The Americans are Jewish GIs recruited by Aldo "The Apache" Raine (Brad Pitt), a drawling commando who gives a mean pep talk.
"We will be cruel to the Germans," he tells his team (Hostel director Eli Roth among them). "And they will know us through our cruelty."
He orders his men to scalp the enemy. He tortures any German he can get his hands on. He even recruits a German who killed a bunch of Gestapo agents to his corps.
Meanwhile, the urbane and cunning Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is hunting French Jews and tracking the "Inglourious Basterds" who have been wreaking havoc in 1944 occupied France.
In Paris, a Jew in hiding (Mélanie Laurent) runs a local cinema, where she resists the charms of the German war hero (Daniel Brühl) whose exploits have been made into a Nazi propaganda film.
Diane Kruger shows up as a famous German actress, the ancient Rod Taylor cameos as Winston Churchill, and Mike Myers isn't remotely convincing as a British officer ordering a British film critic (Michael Fassbender) into a mission involving a movie premiere and a lot of high-ranking Nazis.
For 21/2 hours Tarantino hurls this hooey against a wall and tries to make it connect — long, supposedly tense scenes play like student-filmmaker Nazi interrogations.
But Pitt delivers fair value. Every Billy Bob-drawled word out of that Leno-jutting jaw is funny.
"If you ever wanna eat a sauerkraut sammich again," he threatens one Nazi, before turning him over to "The Bear Jew," a GI who beats prisoners to death with a baseball bat.
But even scenes that work drag on in German and French, as if Tarantino didn't know the German or French words for "faster."
Here's another one he didn't pick up — schadenfreude. Quentin haters will be overdosing on that for the next few days. At least Spike will be grateful.