Heat by Rob O’Neill

Tarantino meets Father Ted

Kill Bill (everywhere) and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, at the Belvoir Theatre, Surrey Hills.

Theatre, at its very best, can deliver an even more engaging and exciting experience than film. However, it rarely does. The film-makers’ toolkit is huge and powerful, their budgets so enormous that film almost always outguns the older medium.

Granted, theatre has the edge in intimacy, but this advantage also limits its audience. And many productions are flawed. You have to be devoted to theatre to experience its rare gems.

This week I have had a theatre experience that humbles our era’s most iconic film director and starkly displays how very poor his latest offering truly is. That The Lieutenant of Inishmore owes Tarantino a huge debt only serves to emphasise his failure. It also leads me, at least, to ask whether Tarantino's many fans now have to look to his legion of followers and imitators for both satisfaction and the continuation of his great and usually enthralling cinema experiment.

Kill Bill sucks.

Yes, I know it is just part one. And yes, there were highlights. But it does not deliver. Far from it.

The film totally lacks the wit that made Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown such joys. Occasionally it peeks through, but lines are too often awkward and badly delivered. This films relies on a totally linear plot based on revenge. This is the simplest of set-ups.

Where in the past Tarantino has extended the genres he references, this time he does not. In fact, I’d rather head down the video shop and hire the originals.

In his previous efforts the plots had complexity and his characters depth. Here we have linearity and a cartoonish quality. While a portion of the story is delivered as a manga cartoon, I’d be tempted to say it all should have been, except that would be an insult to manga.

To make it worse, Tarantino almost seems to recognise these failings. Uma Thurman’s samurai mentor at the end of the film muses that the way of revenge is not a straight line, “it is a forest”.

Not here it ain’t.

Part 2 of Kill Bill really has to do something special to redeem this. Does the maestro have something up his sleeve? We’ll have to wait and see.

But for those readers in Sydney the Tarantino disappointment can be remedied. Go to the Belvoir, and see The Lieutenant of Inishmore for a truly witty, cleverly plotted and beautifully acted Tarantinoesque experience.

Tarantino crossed with Father Ted, that is.

Long story short: A spotty teen runs over a black cat, Wee Thomas, belonging to an IRA splinter terrorist. This guy, Padraic, has splintered so much he’s way out on his own. The cat, whom he entrusted to the care of his dad while he's away bombing fish and chip shops, is his only friend in the world. He loves Wee Thomas sooo bad.

Before Padraic comes home spotty teen Davey has to find a replacement black cat or face certain cruel death. Padraic specialises in torture.

This unlikely scenario serves to introduce a play of unpredictable and well concealed plot twists, sub-plots, great characters and more blood and body parts than Reservoir Dogs. And it’s a comedy. I was pissing myself.

Playwright Martin McDonagh’s work is graced with direction from Australian theatre icon Neil Armfield. Among the performers, Frank Gallacher as Padraic’s dad Donny and Tom Budge as Davey really turn in some great set pieces while Colin Moody as INLA boss Christy, out to eliminate Padraic, delivers an ominous, Michael Madsen-like performance. He even looks like him.

Kudos too to special effects man David Trethaway, who really has a way with blood, explosions of blood. Buckets of the stuff.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is Reservoir Dogs with cats, Pulp Fiction with pussy, Jackie Brown with, well, you get my drift.