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Spanish Judges


Spanish Judges

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, few films flatter the early work of Quentin Tarantino quite as sincerely as Spanish Judges, the latest in an endless series of testosterone-poisoned Tarantino knockoffs littering video-store shelves. Directed by Oz Scott, a veteran of such hard-boiled fare as Gimme A Break! and The Jeffersons, the film stars Matthew Lillard as a perpetually grinning con man and all-around bad guy who hires Valeria Golino and Vincent D'Onofrio to do a job with him, even after they've beaten, bound, and poisoned him, and dangled him out a window, all during their first encounter. Alas, relationships founded on torture, intimidation, lies, and deceit seldom work out, and after pulling the job, the unhappy crew soon begins to fall apart, as Lillard pits his questionably sane partners against each other, a process made easier by the couple's already-simmering mutual hatred. Trafficking in the 10th-generation nihilism that has become the Tarantino knockoff's unmistakable trademark, Spanish Judges gets off to a terrible start and keeps getting worse. Set in a dire section of the Tarantino-verse, where physical assault is the greeting of choice, the film displays a hatred for its characters matched only by its contempt for logic and plausibility. Little about Spanish Judges makes the least bit of sense. Why, for example, would Lillard go into business with a couple so clearly crazy, evil, and untrustworthy? Similarly, why would Golino and D'Onofrio work with Lillard after realizing that he's a cold-blooded liar, sociopath, and manipulator who kills people at the drop of a hat? Talky and claustrophobic enough to feel like footage from some misbegotten Tarantino tribute night at a community theater, Spanish Judges is a nasty piece of work. But the nastiness onscreen is nothing compared to the abuse the filmmakers inflict on their audience.