Brad Pitt's got guts and they belong to dead Nazis

Brad Pitt in a scene from, "Inglourious Basterds." Brad Pitt in a scene from, "Inglourious Basterds." Photo Credit: AP Photo

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REVIEW

PLOT: A group of World War II resistance fighters terrorizes The Third Reich. Three stars. Rated R.

BOTTOM LINE: This feels like vintage Tarantino, not new Tarantino, but it's never anything less than ridiculously entertaining.

CAST: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger

DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino

LENGTH: 2:32

The Nazis are the victims, the Jews their slaughterers. The score is part spaghetti Western, part French chanson. Brad Pitt looks like Clark Gable but talks like Forrest Gump. And during the final act of Quentin Tarantino's wildly unpredictable World War II epic, "Inglourious Basterds," you'll hear David Bowie's 1982 theme song to "Cat People."

Well, why not? Tarantino has made a career out of breaking rules and redefining conventions, turning torture into entertainment in "Reservoir Dogs," setting new standards for dialogue with "Pulp Fiction" and transforming B-movie schlock into art with "Grindhouse" (codirected with Robert Rodriguez).

Tarantino is the most fearlessly inventive filmmaker alive - but we knew that. And while "Inglourious Basterds" is never anything less than ridiculously entertaining, it's nothing Tarantino hasn't done before.

Inspired by Enzo G. Castellari's similarly titled 1978 cheapie (with the proper spelling of both words), the movie combines several nifty ideas into one almost-story. Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) commands a rogue group of murderous Jews (including "Hostel" director Eli Roth). A Parisian cinema owner (Mélanie Laurent) hosts a film premiere attended by Hitler. And a German film star (Diane Kruger, channeling Marlene Dietrich) doubles as an Allied spy.

Tarantino's biggest achievement may be tricking Americans into watching a 21/2-hour foreign film with four languages, subtitles and a thrilling international cast that covers Ireland, France, Germany and Canada (look for Mike Myers as a British officer). But no one can match Christoph Waltz, who steals the show as Col. Hans Landa, arguably the happiest Nazi in screen history.

Everything comes together, more or less, with plenty of blood, brains and bullets. But while "Inglourious Basterds" is technically Tarantino's newest movie, it somehow doesn't feel like it.

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Eli's coming, hide your Nazis

As Eli Roth - who plays Donny Donowitz, a merciless, baseball-bat-wielding Nazi killer in "Inglourious Basterds" - tells it, he became director Quentin Tarantino's "Jewish fact-checker" on the project almost by default. Roth's input ultimately enabled the writer-director to imbue the resolution of "Basterds" with a higher degree of psychological realism. This began with Roth inviting Tarantino to his family home for Passover seder in 2007, the director's first. "We got into these long, philosophical discussions about the Holocaust and slavery, oppression," Roth said.

"He asked me, 'Would a Jew give absolution to a Nazi at the end of the war?' I said, 'Never.' It's purely a Christian construct. It's not that we don't forgive; we don't forget. Being Jewish is to remember. If I had the chance, I would kill every one of those ."

Roth also invited his parents to Berlin to take part in filming a scene in which 300 extras dressed in Nazi regalia attend a screening of "Nation's Pride," the propaganda movie-within-a-movie. Never mind that many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust - or that his mother and father had sworn never to set foot in Germany.Upon landing in Berlin, Roth's parents visited the Holocaust Museum and changed their stance on modern Germany. On set later in the day, they displayed a willingness to enter into the film's historical-revisionist fantasy, posing for photos with the actor who portrays Hitler in Basterds. - Los Angeles Times

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