Movie Review: Four Rooms (1995)
“Twelve outrageous guests. Four scandalous requests. And one lone bellhop, in his first day on the job, who’s in for the wildest New year’s Eve of his life.”
Four Rooms (1995)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Tim Roth, Amanda De Cadenet, David Proval
Synopsis: One New Year’s Eve, a bellhop on his first night on the job finds himself involved in some bizarre, unsettling incidents.
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Four Rooms’ Pink Panther-style animated credits sequence is birthed from one of the suits in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘A Band Apart’ logo; it is, perhaps, Reservoir Dogs’ ill-fated gang member Mr. Orange from whom an animated version of the bellhop that interlinks the film’s four stories emerges, seeing as how both characters are played by Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Little Odessa) . The episodes which Roth is tasked with gluing together are of variable quality, and it’s to be expected that those coming from the imaginations of messrs. Tarantino and Rodriguez are considerably superior to those supplied by Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell, their lesser-known co-writers and directors. Unfortunately, the poor quality of their contributions might well be enough to discourage viewers from hanging around long enough to see the efforts from Rodriguez and Tarantino.
Four Rooms would be forgotten today was it not for the involvement of Tarantino and Rodriguez, who would later work together on the more commercially appealing Grindhouse project, and the first two segments, it has to be said, are better off forgotten. Anders’ “The Missing Ingredient” sees pop diva Madonna leading a coven of witches that occupies the honeymoon suite where they prepare for a ritual they hope will restore their goddess, Diana (Amanda de Cadenet), to human form after she was turned to stone some forty years before. Unfortunately, midway through the ritual, one of their number (Ione Skye) confesses she has failed to harvest the human sperm that was to be her contribution, and so it’s decided that she must persuade the hapless bellhop, Ted, to part with some of his. It’s an idea with comic potential, but it sounds better on paper than it plays in the hands of Anders, who doesn’t seem to have a clue where to go with it.
Fresh from his encounter with the comely young witch in the honeymoon suite, Ted stumbles into a much less agreeable situation for Rockwell’s “The Wrong Man.” Sent to the wrong room by a drunken guest wanting ice, he stumbles into an overwrought situation in which an armed and jealous husband (David Proval – Smokin’ Aces) has bound and gagged his wife (Jennifer Beals) to a chair as they await the arrival of her lover. “The Wrong Man” is considerably better than the first segment, but the farcical nature of the material encourages Proval and Roth to goad each other into ever-greater feats of over-acting that will quickly test the patience of most viewers.
Things start to improve with Robert Rodriguez’s contribution, “The Misbehavers,” a darkly comic tale in which Ted finds himself at the beck and call of a couple of kids after accepting $500 from their mobster father (a commanding performance from Antonio Banderas, who had just finished filming Desperado with Rodriguez) to keep an eye on them while he and their mother (Tamlyn Tomita) go partying. It’s nothing but a protracted build-up to a killer punchline, but it’s filmed with verve and style, and Banderas smoulders as only Latinos can.
Tarantino’s turn at the helm comes last, and is not only the best of the bunch but a virtuoso exercise from its young director which begins with a long tracking shot reminiscent of the opening scene of The Player, which just happens to be the movie the characters in the penthouse suite are discussing when Ted enters. Three guys – Chester (Tarantino – My Best Friend’s Birthday, Pulp Fiction), Leo (an uncredited Bruce Willis – Precious Cargo, Marauders), and Norman (Paul Calderon – Pulp Fiction, 3 A.M.) – have entered into a wager based upon an old episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s TV show: Chester has bet Norman his Zippo lighter won’t work 10 times in a row. If it does, he will give Norman the classic car he covets; if Chester wins the bet, Norman must forfeit his little finger. Like “The Misbehavers”, “The Man from Hollywood” is one long lead-in to a punchline that is both hugely pleasing and unexpected simply because Tarantino plays with our expectations in a typically forthright fashion.
Whether you like Four Rooms will depend on your opinion of Tim Roth as an actor. Here, he plays the bellhop exactly like the cartoon character from the opening credits: he grins and grimaces and squeaks and when he grows excited he screeches like a character from The Muppets. It’s a turn that’s mildly entertaining for a while, but over the course of an entire movie it starts to wear pretty thin. So, in conclusion, to get the most out of Four Rooms you might be better off skipping the first two stories and starting from Rodriquez’s episode; that way, you avoid the worst of the movie and limit your exposure to Roth’s somewhat overbearing performance.
(Reviewed 11th December 2016)