Today is Quentin Tarantino’s 49th birthday. For huge fans, that’s a sufficient excuse to take a look back at the career of one of the most talented, unique directors working today. And to wonder what could have been: Though we’ve eaten up his bloody style in films like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction, we wish he could have done so much more. Like direct every movie in Hollywood. Oh, that’s not possible? Fine — instead, we’ll focus on five films we would have loved to see get the Tarantino treatment.
Perhaps the most obvious example. Tarantino wrote the Natural Born Killers script (long before Pulp Fiction made him a star — even though the two films wound up being released just a couple months apart). Unfortunately (according to some critics), Oliver Stone infamously butchered, er, revised it, and the uneven movie we saw was not the one Tarantino had written. While the plot was undeniably interesting and the performances hypnotic (and how about that soundtrack from present-day movie-music maestro Trent Reznor!), some felt Natural Born Killers was self-indulgent, not to mention unfocused, literally and figuratively. We would have liked to see Tarantino stick closely to his original concept of a husband-and-wife crime spree, ditch the heavy-handed commentary on/satire of modern-day media, and churn out a darkly comedic crime romance for the ages.
Oh, the places this movie could’ve gone! Sadly, despite a captivating concept, its off-screen buzz, not director Doug Liman’s bland stylings, led to cash at the box office. (Thank you, Bradgelina!) A hypothetical Tarantino offering, however, might have highlighted all the elements audiences wanted to see between the two biggest celebs in the world: sex, violence and action. And God only knows the depraved ways in which QT would’ve contorted the married-couple-with-secrets plot. We can dream, can’t we?
Brett Ratner’s first installment of this East-meets-West action-comedy series represented arguably the high point of his career. But it’s fun to think how great Rush Hour would’ve been in Tarantino’s hands. It’s easy, too: The culture-clash gags would’ve been a whole lot sharper (and less frequent, though not gone completely), the fight sequences and stunt work would’ve blown our minds, and the storyline would’ve actually been compelling, with more than a mere hint of danger for the protagonists, since Tarantino would’ve been working with an R rating instead of Ratner’s box office-friendly PG-13. All that, and Tarantino would’ve had the good sense to stop after one Rush Hour.
With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino showed, among other things, that he won’t shy away from a little facial gruesomeness here and there. That could’ve helped John Woo’s Face/Off tremendously: Imagine the many directions Tarantino could’ve taken a story about men on opposite sides of the law who literally switch faces — or how much fun he would’ve had with a twist involving, say, a faceless Caster Troy on the run from a faceless Sean Archer! (Okay, we might’ve gotten a little carried away there.) Plus, parts of Woo’s version — which, don’t get us wrong, is fun and close to greatness on its own — are oddly melodramatic, and Tarantino would’ve no doubt been glad to excise such fat and fill it with scenes that are perhaps less mainstream audience-appropriate. And lest we forget, Tarantino and John Travolta work pretty well together.
To be clear, the Oscar-winning 1995 original was, and remains, a classic that Bryan Singer masterfully directed. We wouldn’t really change a thing. However, there’s no doubt Tarantino would’ve been a great choice to direct as well. Perhaps nobody manipulates the audience more adeptly than Tarantino, and The Usual Suspects is at least partly about, well, f**king with the viewers. Separately, it would’ve been fascinating to see his casting skills — always a strong suit of his. But if he stuck with the original, fantastic core group — oh, the magic he and Benicio Del Toro would’ve created! All in all, Suspects is slower fare than Tarantino might be used to, which could possibly be the most tantalizing aspect of this particular fantasy: How he would handle a change of pace.