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By Brad Laidman | July 18, 2001

God I wish I had written this movie. The ultimate goal of a writer is to pen something snappy and cast himself as the hero, and Quentin Tarantino pulls it off in spades. So you’re a bit of a flake. You have a huge Elvis obsession. You love comic books, and you know how to use a plastic honey bear container as a water pipe. What if I cast a fast talking cool actor like Christian Slater, as myself. Wouldn’t it be excellent if instead of sitting through three Sonny Chiba movies alone on my birthday a hot number like Patricia Arquette walked into the theater, fell in my lap, immediately decided I was the coolest guy on the face of the Earth and the only man for her?
That wouldn’t be enough though. I would have to prove myself to her somehow. I would have to go on a quest. I would have to stand up to her white Afro-American fixated psycho junkie pimp (Gary Oldman), and set her free. I’d accidentally wind up with a couple of hundred thousand dollars in uncut coke, narrowly avoid the police, the mob, and my own stupidity, and retire on a beach somewhere. I’d have passionate sex in a phone booth to the sounds of Chantilly Lace. Every word I uttered would be poetry because I’ve been waiting all my life to grab hold of the world and shake it. All the while Elvis (Val Kilmer) would appear like an apparition, root me on, and assure me that my grace and style truly merit his attention. “I like you Clarence. Always have, always will!” That would be something.
And it is. There are so many A level anti-hero stars in this movie that Sam Jackson appears for thirty seconds, disappears and is never missed. Brad Pitt plays the most entertaining stoner since Sean Penn divorced Madonna and decided he’d rather direct. Enjoy, as he invites a gang of mobsters in for a smoke. Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper face off in a beautifully written greatest psychotic actor of all time contest to the death, the sound of their voices spurred along by the crackling burning tobacco they share. Even Bronson Pinchot makes up for years of Balki as a pathetic hanger on personal assistant to Saul Rubinek’s edgy white powder Hollywood parody of a Francis Ford Coppola wannabe.
Tony Scott steers the movie like a rocket and it never slows down, in fact there are continuos segues to fast moving trucks, trains, even a literal roller coaster ride. Arquette and Slater, as Alabama and Clarence Worley, are in heavy company here and more than hold their own. Arquette survives an especially intense and violent showdown with Soprano’s star James Gandolfini, as a philosophically sadistic hit man, and Slater reminds you once again how cool it is to sound and act like a young Jack Nicholson What’s fun is that neither character has any idea what they are doing, as they bravely keep talking, continually throw out grade A pop references, and make things up as they go along. “Your son F**k-head that he is, left his driver’s license in a dead guys hand!”
The tense finale is another Tarantino Mexican standoff, “Reservoir Dogs” with more ammo, more shooters, and a much happier ending. When Alabama passes Clarence a note that says “You’re so cool!” seconds from the shootout, he might as well have written it to himself. Tarantino and an uncredited Roger Avary fill this film with so much sparkling dialogue it’s a wonder they had anything left for Pulp Fiction. In essence the perfect fantasy perfectly realized.

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