A couch potato’s paradise, this highly clever, immensely entertaining second feature by Quentin Tarantino is a chronologically scrambled collection of interlocking crime stories. Apart from the ingenious structure, its charm lies in allusions to other movies and TV shows, and despite all the thematic nudges about redemption and second chances, its true agenda is sort of the opposite of Forrest Gump’s: to make the escapist, media-savvy viewer the real hero of the story. Tarantino’s mock-tough narrative–with its farcical mayhem, deadpan macho monologues, evocations of anal penetration, and terms of racial abuse–should be a wet dream for 14-year-old closet queens (or, perhaps more accurately, the 14-year-old closet queen in all of us), and his command of this smart-alecky mode is so sure that the movie sparkles throughout with canny twists and turns. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and Harvey Keitel all vibrate with high-voltage star power, while the rest of the cast (Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Maria de Medeiros, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Tarantino himself) amply fill out the scenery. Only occasionally–in an overloaded and ugly basement episode and some anemic love scenes–does Tarantino seem to be straining, though even here his overall project is evident: to evict real life and real people from the art film and replace them with generic teases and assorted hommages, infuse everything with hype and attitude, and build a monument to the viewer’s supposed connoisseurship. The references range from Douglas Sirk to Howard Hawks to Saturday Night Fever to kung fu by way of Godard, but don’t expect any of the life experiences to leak through; punchy, flamboyant surface is all there is. Ford City, Esquire, Norridge, Old Orchard, Biograph, Burnham Plaza, Golf Mill, Lincoln Village.