Impossible it may be to disassociate Enzo G. Castellari’s efforts on The Inglorious Bastards with the film it ultimately ended up inspiring, this seventies war flick is filled with all the action jargon and tropes one could hope for. While it may offer up the horrors of the Second World War in a fast-paced action flick, it is immediately clear that the writing will leave much to desire. Such is the way of a spaghetti war film, and while it does not have the allure of the fabled spaghetti western, audiences can merely hope for The Inglorious Bastards to offer heroic, stifled and likeable characters, who face off against a clear enemy that any sane participant would love to hate.
Still, put your hatred on ice for a moment, for the first hurdle The Inglorious Bastards fail to jump is a likeable, dynamic cast. Perhaps the title should give it away, but it is rather odd to be paired with such boring characters, characters that do little, if anything, to suggest likeability. This is more an issue for the underwhelming performances, rather than anything the script fails to do. Their brave and daring escape to freedom is boring, quick and loose. Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson are at the front of this venture, but they offer nothing particularly engaging. Castellari’s immediate decision to rely on the played-up testimonies of the genre is a rather dismal affair, with the soundtrack and iconography bleeding red, white and blue at times.
It makes for a jarring leap, especially when this band of bland heroes find themselves approaching cliché and consequence. Feeling more and more like a poorly, watered-down version of Cross of Iron, but from the perspective of blue-eyed American heroes. They get along well enough, but there is no point in sight. Rebels who find themselves pushing against the country that killed their countrymen, but fighting back against those who they once fought alongside too. Finding themselves in the middle ground, the inevitabilities of heroic, emboldened actions and their bravado-style downsides are clear to see, and underwhelming in execution. None of the story threads go anywhere, and what little tension and action there is isn’t worth sticking around for.
With no clear aim in sight, and with varyingly few setpieces for the hardcore action crowd, The Inglorious Bastards is slightly underwhelming. Even when it musters up some strong moments of gunfighting, it is broken apart with dialogue, as if these conversations and attempts at ballooning the bland characters would work whatsoever. Most definitely not. Especially not at the cost of the one draw the film really has to work with. Fights that are crafted somewhat well are ruined by the consistent, pace-breaking weaknesses of the script and director. A sad shame, but the influences and the subsequent impact Castellari’s piece had on the hardworking craftsmen of the future are clear to see.