Scott Marks 12:30 p.m., July 26
At first, and for the better part of its two and a half hours, this is apt to seem an oddly unadventurous undertaking for Quentin Tarantino, a gabby adaptation of a novel by his revered Elmore Leonard (source of notoriously mediocre movies), draggy, only fitfully funny, lifelessly staged, largely static. He waited three years after Pulp Fiction for this? In the long run, though, and the run is very long indeed, it is the oddness and not the unadventurousness that wins out. (Notwithstanding the late-innings gimmick of a pivotal episode played out three times in succession from three different points of view.) That the characters come alive as people (rather than remain stiff and cold as genre archetypes), that the caper takes shape in logical stages with plausible motivation, that the minimal violence is dispatched with almost Godardian offhandedness, that telephone numbers are recited out loud without the prefix "555" -- these things are odd enough. Odder yet is that such a youthy Hollywood director would pay such sincere respect to his elders, and, too, that he would take up as his principal theme the desperation, the resignation, the possible serenity of middle age. The scene in which Robert Forster talks about his vanishing hair and Pam Grier about her spreading hips is priceless. And who else in Tarantino's position of power, and at his brink of stardom, would opt to reach so far below the A-list for his hero and heroine? With Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton. 1997.