Four Rooms is … an interesting experience.
Four Rooms is not for everyone. Made up of four segments directed by four different directors, there’s no major story other than following a bellboy, Ted, as he works his first night at a rundown hotel. Each segment has a different flavor, a different style but it also makes an uneven viewing experience.
The Missing Ingredient is the first and the weakest of the segments. A coven of witches camps in the honeymoon suite and they are desperate to resurrect their goddess. One of them has forgotten a much-needed ingredient that she can get from Ted. You’d think a piece about a coven of witches would be interesting but The Missing Ingredient can’t even be awful, just boring. It has a bit of inspired stunt casting in Madonna, but she’s not any good here either.
The Wrong Man centers on a man and a woman in one of the rooms who may be either playing at some sort of sexual role-playing game or…not, and Ted’s not really sure which is which and what is what. All he can tell is that the man’s got a gun and is pointing it at him. Most of this one relies on Tim Roth and Jennifer Beals using some precision timing and while it has a few laughs, the short wears out its welcome quickly.
Robert Rodriguez’s The Misbehavers is easily the best of all of them. A husband and wife pay Ted $500 to watch their children while they’re gone for the night. The kids turn out to be pint-sized, foul-mouthed tyrants who give Ted no end of grief. By the time their parents return, they have managed to set the room on fire, discover a dead hooker in the bed, stab Ted with a syringe, smoke, drink and generally destroy all manner of property and drive Ted nearly to the brink of insanity. It’s as though Rodriguez melded his Spy Kids sensibilities with the same sick humor in Planet Terror … just before all that.
The Man From Hollywood is directed by Tarantino and it’s got an awful lot of Tarantino trademarks in it. What sinks The Man From Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino casting himself. His character is Jimmie Dimmick from Pulp Fiction dialed up to eleven. Tarantino’s fine in small doses (a la Desperado) but here it’s insufferable, obnoxious and asks way too much of the viewer to be patient as Tarantino manically bumbles along. The Man From Hollywood is about a bet that really doesn’t end well and it feels longer than it actually is.
So what’s the guilty pleasure in Four Rooms? Tim Roth, hands down. Roth combines silly, well-timed comedy with slapstick and comes out with a neurotic bellboy who’s over the top but still believable. This is a guy poorly equipped to handle the night at this hotel and reacts badly to most of the insane situations in which he ends up.
Roth is the connection between the four pieces, and even when Four Rooms is bad you hope you can still keep watching for Tim Roth and what he might do next. I suspect The Missing Ingredient was placed first solely because it’s just not that good, and Roth’s performance is the one good thing about it. Four Rooms would have been atrocious without him, primarily because it runs as a movie without any real sense of direction. In fact, Four Rooms feels like four people got together on a lark to have some fun, not present stories and characters they had any investment in, so Roth has to bear a heavy weight in making things work. He does, as best he can, and he’s the best part of it all.