'Inglourious Basterds'

Ah, that most inglourious of basterds, Quentin Tarantino. His raucous new World War II farce with its tiny Jewish American contingent out to exact justice on Nazis in France is also raising a lather among the body politic. Brad Pitt is the leading basterd, a hill-country absurdist with a killer underbite and a choking drawl. He's demanding 100 Nazi scalps from each of his men, which the filmmaker proceeds to deliver in hair-razing color. More than a few critics have handed Tarantino's scalp right back for his irreverent take on the war's indignities and atrocities, though he's never been shy about the mayhem he'll wreak given the chance. What is good about the film is so very good as to outweigh the rest. He plays tension like taffy, stretching it (and us) as far as he can, particularly in the fine opening gambit with Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, one of the most bone-chilling villains ever. Is it outrageous and impolitic? Absolutely. Is it too long? Definitely. Is it worth seeing? Without question.

-- Betsy Sharkey

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