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Date TimeAugust 23, 2019
VoiceThe director dials up the stomach-churning violence in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. If only he had something meaningful to say
Tarantinos gruesome revenge fantasies are growing more puerile and misogynistic | Caspar Salmon
Warning: this story contains spoilers
Compare and contrast two screen deaths. In Quentin Tarantino’s second film, Pulp Fiction in 1994, John Travolta’s Vincent Vega accidentally shoots Marvin, a minor character, in the face. The killing happens mid-sentence, in the blink of an eye; in the process Vince covers himself and his acolyte Jules in blood and guts. The scene is played for laughs and succeeds: the horror and suddenness of the event coax an appalled hilarity from viewers, exacerbated by the two hitmen’s reaction, which is to bicker about mundane practicalities.
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Manson family member Susan Atkins, who slaughtered Sharon Tate and two others with her accomplices in 1969, is killed in self-defence by Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), by being beaten in the face with a tin can, savaged by a dog and torched with a flamethrower. The scene is also played for comic effect, but in a diametrically opposite way, since the intended humour derives from how prolonged and over the top the brutality is. The violence, though stomach-churning, plays out on a surreal sort of Tex Avery level.

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