Ted the Bellhop (Tim Roth) is starting work for the night, which happens to be New Year's Eve, and before he does he is given advice by one of the old hands at the bellhopping business, including warnings not to get sexually involved with the guests and to make sure he gets his tips in cash. The hotel is not exactly busy, so Ted thinks it will be a quiet evening, though he still has to work a little, taking bags up to the Honeymoon Suite for the woman (Madonna) who has booked it. However, he will find himself taking part in more of the guests' lives than he reckoned with...
The first time that some people thought Quentin Tarantino was not all he was cracked up to be was Four Rooms, which to be fair he only directed a quarter of, but nevertheless saw him come in for a hefty amount of flak when it represented his first real flop. The idea was to take a group of indie filmmakers - originally five but Richard Linklater bowed out early on - and showcase what they could do with the short movie format, stringing together their themed efforts in what would hopefully sustain the better known ones (Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) while giving a boost to the lesser known ones (Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell).
But the best laid plans and all that, which saw most of those hardy few who paid for tickets to see it stony faced in light of what this lot regarded as high comedy, in effect undone by the atmosphere of extremely pleased with themselves smugness which suffused every frame, offputting when that audience found it difficult to see what the fuss was about. First up was Anders' segment detailing a coven of witches who want Ted's help in providing a special ingredient for their spell to bring back the Goddess Diana; British viewers were further unimpressed by that when she turned out to be Amanda de Cadanet, the painfuly amateurish television presenter, but that was hardly Anders' fault.
What was her fault was that just with the others, her section set up its premise and could not decide on anything to do with it other than the most obvious conclusion. In the case of Rockwell, he didn't even do that, with Ted getting mixed up with some weird bondage game between tied up wife Jennifer Beals and gun-toting husband David Proval, a yarn which headed precisely nowhere for twenty long minutes. Rodriguez' was generally regarded as the best of the lot as he forced the hapless Ted (Roth's relentless mugging was an acquired taste to say the least) to turn babysitter for aggressively suave Antonio Banderas' kids. It's true that this was the most innovative, but the issues remained.
Tarantino's story came last, except it was actually a Roald Dahl story adapted for the milieu of Hollywood decadence, with Quentin himself playing a mover and shaker in that world who wants to partake in a bet with his colleague over who gets his precious car. The bet involves lighting a cigarette lighter ten times in a row, and if the colleague manages that he gets the vehicle - if not, he loses his pinkie to a meat cleaver. This takes the form of a very longwinded conversation - with uncredited Bruce Willis hovering in the background - leading up to a punchline that is not so much hilarious as it represents a relief that it was all over. Each of these filmmakers had created sterling work before, which makes it all the more odd that they should have dropped the ball here; did it illustrate how the short film was a more exacting style than they had anticipated, or were they simply feeling lazy or rushed in their concepts? As none of them mentioned Four Rooms much since, perhaps we'll never know. Music by Combustible Edison.
American writer/director and one of the most iconic filmmakers of the 1990s. The former video store clerk made his debut in 1992 with the dazzling crime thriller Reservoir Dogs, which mixed razor sharp dialogue, powerhouse acting and brutal violence in controversial style. Sprawling black comedy thriller Pulp Fiction was one of 1994's biggest hits and resurrected John Travolta's career, much as 1997's Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown did for Pam Grier.