The worst Quentin Tarantino movie isn’t actually that hard to choose. Over nearly three decades, the controversial filmmaker has created a string of successful and critically acclaimed motion pictures. His directorial efforts are always presented as an event for film culture and his track record is incredibly strong.
Most people will say the worst Quentin Tarantino movie is Death Proof. While it acted as a far less unhinged entry when paired with Planet Terror in the double feature Grindhouse, Death Proof has been able to stand on its own in recent years and many see its merits now. There might be a few folks who call The Hateful Eight the weakest entry in Tarantino’s filmography, but that movie is actually a dark masterpiece that only gets more potent with every passing year.
Some might even be so bold as to call Jackie Brown or Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood the worst Quentin Tarantino movie and those people are simply insane. Or rather, they likely aren’t familiar with the other films Tarantino has been involved with.
Because when we’re talking about the worst Quentin Tarantino movie, there is really only one contender. Do you think it might be Reservoir Dogs? Guess again. Maybe it’s the lesser appreciated Kill Bill Vol. 2? Strike two. No, it’s not even his “lost” first feature My Best Friend’s Birthday.
The Worst Quentin Tarantino Movie Is…
“Huh?”, you might be saying to yourself. It’s possible you haven’t even heard of Four Rooms. There’s a very good reason for that, but before we delve too deep into that, let’s talk about how Four Rooms positions itself to be the worst Quentin Tarantino movie.
Tarantino had made a huge splash with his debut film Reservoir Dogs and became the hot young director in Hollywood. Two years later, he followed that up with Pulp Fiction and that sent him into the stratosphere of great directors making uncompromising cinema. Everyone in the film world was tapped into whatever Tarantino was going to do next.
And that was Four Rooms, Quentin Tarantino’s worst movie.
Why Four Rooms Is Quentin Tarantino’s Worst Movie
Four Rooms sounds like it should be a home run concept. Loosely based on the writings of Roald Dahl, the movie brought together four talented writer/directors – Quentin Tarantino, Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, and Alexandre Rockwell – for an attempt at some wild comedy hijinks. Yes, Tarantino tried his hand at a straight-up comedy. And the results are nothing short of disappointing, so disappointing it’s Tarantino’s worst movie.
To be fair, Four Rooms is an anthology film and that structure is almost guaranteed to create a variety of quality. But, with the exception of Robert Rodriguez’s entry “The Misbehavers”, the entire collection falls horribly flat. The premise centers around the new bellhop of the Hotel Mon Signor, Ted (Tim Roth). Ted gets mixed up in the lives of the hotel’s guests and their various stories.
It’s a scenario that’s primed for laughs but the big issue is Tim Roth’s character. He’s less of a real person and more of an audience proxy. Roth’s performance on its own has bright spots but Ted never coalesces into a fully-formed person for us to care about in any meaningful way. We feel bad for him getting wrapped up in all the nuttiness of the guests, but that’s about as far as our sympathy for him goes.
What’s really damning about Four Rooms is the filmmaking on display. With such a talented ensemble of directors, this movie should be bursting at the seams with creative and daring cinematic risks. Instead, it’s mostly boring fare – again, with the exception of Rodriguez’s segment – that never matches the intended heightened aura of the endeavor.
And that’s made painfully clear by the time we get to the last segment written and directed by Tarantino.
Why Endings Matter
Before Tarantino’s segment is Rodriguez’s story, “The Misbehavers.” If you can just see this tale from Four Rooms, it’s all you really need to see. Rodriguez is the only one of the assembled filmmakers who injects the movie with the sense of lively insanity it seems to be going for. It’s energetic and ridiculous in all the right ways.
Then, Tarantino is given the closing portion of the movie. Following “The Misbehavers” is a tough job and Tarantino’s segment, “The Man from Hollywood”, doesn’t have the gusto required to close things out. It’s based on the Roald Dahl story “Man from the South” but eschews the more ludicrous horror of that story for something appropriately indulgent (what else would you expect from Tarantino?).
The tale revolves around a director (played by Tarantino) who has made a bet with his friend Norman. If Norman can light his Zippo ten times in a row without failing, Norman will win Chester’s car. If Norman fails, he will have his pinky chopped off. Ted is paid to wield the hatchet. Spoiler alert: Norman fails on the first try, Ted chops off the pinky, grabs the money and leaves the hotel.
Tarantino’s whole idea is to build up the tension of the wager and make the joke that it all fails on the very first go. It’s not a bad idea but the build-up isn’t well-executed through the dialogue or the mood of the piece. Tarantino loves to make his characters blather on and this is the worst instance of this element to his storytelling. The segment feels like a lot of hot air, and the ending punchline doesn’t smack the way Quentin Tarantino wants it to.
Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker that has clearly demonstrated a penchant for comedy. That’s what makes Four Rooms so disheartening. Tarantino is given a stellar lead-in with “The Misbehavers” and he fumbles the ending of the film hard. A bad ending can often cast a shadow over an entire film, and this is the worst ending Tarantino has ever written.
Is It Fair to Even Call This a Tarantino Film?
Four Rooms is unquestionably the worst Tarantino movie with Quentin as a writer/director. His solo efforts are all worthwhile and many are outright excellent. But, I’m sure there are some folks out there that will argue this isn’t the worst Quentin Tarantino movie because he’s not the sole credited writer/director.
I disagree. Tarantino has total creative control over his segment and was certainly a key part of the entire film’s process. If he was solely a credited writer like he is with True Romance or Natural Born Killers, then it wouldn’t be as pointed to call those a true Quentin Tarantino movie. But Four Rooms does have him sitting in both writer’s and director’s chair, and it means he has to take some authorship over the picture. At the very least his segment.
Four Rooms is obviously the worst Quentin Tarantino movie because you likely haven’t even seen it. There’s a reason it’s been somewhat forgotten in his film career. As the follow-up to Pulp Fiction – a similarly anthology-like story – it’s a severe downer. Even on its own terms, it’s a weak entry in the filmmaker’s canon.
There’s no doubt that Four Rooms is’ Quentin Tarantino’s worst movie, but that Robert Rodriguez segment is pretty good!