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Four Rooms

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Four Rooms

Starring: Tim Roth, Antonio Banderas
Director: Allison Anders
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: December 1995
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Horror


*Also starring: Danny Verduzco, Lana McKissack, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Beals, Paul Calderone, Sammi Davis, Valeria Golino, Madonna, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Bruce Willis



Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

Quite needless to say, I did not enter the first showing of Four Rooms on opening day (Christmas Day) the most unbiased viewer. Despite the critical drubbing it had received following its lackluster premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, I was eager to see this omnibus anthology comedy written and directed by four different independent directors, two of whom being a couple of my absolute favorites, the incredibly talented (and all-around swell guy) Robert Rodriguez and my namesake, Mr. Brown himself, Quentin Tarantino (Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell are the other two). Instead of fearing the worst, I took my seat in the fairly crowded auditorium willing to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt. I'd probably have been better off expecting the worst, for I probably would have enjoyed this slapdash stew of mostly unfunny gags a little more and not have been so utterly disappointed.

The film takes place on New Year's Eve at the Mon Signor Hotel, and bellhop Ted (Tim Roth), the only staffer on duty, provides the only link between the four tales, getting involved in bizarre goings-on in four different rooms.

The first tale is Anders's "The Missing Ingredient," about a coven of witches (Valeria Golino, Sammi Davis, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, and a surprisingly adequate Madonna) who attempt to resurrect their goddess Diana (Amanda deCadenet) with a strange brew (which, coincidentally, was the segment's original title). The final ingredient in their brew is fresh sperm, and they enlist Ted to provide the goods. Word is that over twenty minutes were cut from the finished film following the Toronto premiere, and a good chunk of that missing footage appears to have been from this story, for, as it stands in its current version, is neither funny nor makes any complete sense. There's no comic payoff at all, and it doesn't really "end"--it just stops. None of the actors are given much to do although Roth's bizarre mannerisms and delivery are good for a chuckle here or there.

Ted is "The Wrong Man" of Rockwell's segment of the same name, in which our trusty bellhop is mistaken for the lover of a woman (Jennifer Beals) who is bound and gagged and held hostage at gunpoint by her husband (David Proval of Mean Streets fame). Unlike Anders's piece, this vignette does build up to a big joke, but that joke isn't all that funny (unless, perhaps, you find the rattling off of numerous euphemisms for "penis" hilarious), and the road to that joke is quite bumpy and slow, with no real laughs. Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Lawrence Bender, producer of the film and Tarantino's partner at A Band Apart Productions, in a cameo. Again, the best thing about the piece is Roth, who has a manic energy that is unmatched by the other players or the writer-director.

Manic energy is in abundance in the third room, Rodriguez's "The Misbehavers," the only truly hilarious segment. Ted is left in charge of two boisterous young children (Lana McKissick and Danny Verduzco) when their parents (Tamlyn Tomita and Antonio Banderas, in fine form) go out for a night on the town. Hilarity ensues when a syringe, alcohol, and a dead body are thrown into the mix, leading to a raucous finish. It all plays better than it sounds, thanks to the expert direction by Rodriguez and the comic timing and prowess of Roth, Banderas, McKissick, and Verduzco. This segment is the film's true saving grace.

The most disappointing, but not the worst, piece of the puzzle is Tarantino's closing bit, "The Man From Hollywood." Quentino himself stars as Chester Rush, an egomaniacal movie star who gets Ted to play the impartial moderator of a twisted bet between himself and a member of his entourage (Paul Calderon, who played the bartender in Pulp Fiction). The vignette ends with a nifty joke, but it's slow going getting there, for Tarantino's dialogue lacks his trademark snap, and his rather lengthy takes only contribute to the sluggish pace. Jennifer Beals's character from the Rockwell segment and an unbilled Bruce Willis also appear, but add little, if anything to the mix. Maybe it's my bias talking, but ol' Q's acting isn't half bad here (then again, I can't say that I ever really had a problem with his acting), and Roth once again maintains his dignity. But this vignette feels rather forced, with none of the soul or passion in previous Tarantino efforts.

If anything, Four Rooms _is_ outrageous and far from a tough sit, but as a comedy, it fails to deliver the goods. It is a noble but failed filmic experiment that maybe isn't quite as bad as its detractors have been saying, but is by no means that good, either. Expect this one to check out of theatres soon.

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