Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA. 1992.

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A film about a botched robbery. It begins with a group of men in a cafe exchanging anecdotes, they could be construction workers, journalists, friends, indeed any group of men hanging-out. It is not until after the opening credits that we learn that they are the gang that commits the robbery. The structure of the film is such that you only learn bit by bit (mainly through flashbacks) how the men are recruited into the gang. 

It concentrates on male group behaviour and how they assert themselves within this criminal group. Police and public are merely targets or things that get in their way. The one (anonymous) woman who does appear, shoots the wrong man thereby initiating the train of events that leads to the final confrontation. Otherwise women, and black people have no place in this film except as the butt of humour and sexual innuendo. 

A prime aspect of the film is the trading of stories between the men. The undercover policeman has to memorise and personalise an anecdote about drug-dealing in order to worm his way into the criminal gang. As he rehearses and perfects the anecdote the scenes shift, until he recounts the story to the gang boss. In an 'imaginary scene' he is visiting a toilet where a group of policemen are telling stories to each other. Tellingly one of the policemen recounts how he nearly blows off the head of a nervous car driver, who keeps reaching for his glove box. It is the man's wife who stops him, not the explicit warnings from the policeman. Ironically it is a woman getting a gun out of her glove box who shoots a member of the gang. This amply shows the sophistication of Tarantino's manipulation of time and space, and control of the narrative thread. 

This is a very powerful film that like Silence of the Lambs scares the audience with what could happen rather than by showing anything really horrifying (though the torture scene is not recommended for the faint-hearted). 

After the screening the full- house audience was noisy with conversation about the film - a sharp contrast to many screenings where the audience has forgotten the film before they reach the exit. 

If you like this type of film this actually does deserve all the praise and hype given it. 

Nigel Watson
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