Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Naveen Andrews, Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Jeff Fahey, Vanessa Ferlito, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Freddy Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Marley Shelton, Quentin Tarantino, Tracie Thoms, Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Continuing his fascination with all things ‘70s, Quentin Tarantino brings buddy Robert Rodriguez together to create a cinematic experience that was traditional thirty years ago. Grindhouse is the name given to those exploitative double features that were long on the blood and sex and light on the plot.
Two films make up this Grindhouse. The first on deck is the Rodriguez-directed flick Planet Terror. Part-zombie flick and part-action film, Planet Terror is based around a rather ludicrous plot of a secret military nerve gas that creates infectious zombies. These zombies terrorize the town and threaten to upset the precarious status quo.
The second feature, Death Proof, is a complete departure from the free-flowing bloodiness of Planet Terror. This is quite surprising considering the more visceral Tarantino directed it. Death Proof tells the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) as he maliciously stalks young women and attempts to kill them. This film features only three, modestly-short scenes of blood and violence.
The two movies are connected by an amusing set of faux trailers. Although the film launches with a preview of a film called Machete about butt-kicking Hispanic immigrants, it’s the three “coming attractions” in the middle that are most enjoyable. Werewolf Women of the S.S. is startlingly similar to the computer game Return to Castle Wolfenstein about Nazi troops supported by strange creatures. The title of the film clip tells you what it’s about and the accompanying footage is delightfully cheesy.
The second trailer was for a disturbing film called Thanksgiving. The horror film bears significant resemblance to the blood-and-guts flicks like Silent Night Deadly Night and Valentines Day but tackles the oddly-missed holiday of Pilgrim thanks. The third trailer is quite amusing. It’s simply titled Don’t and ridicules all the stupid things that teenagers do in slasher flicks. The word is repeated numerous times and, although it’s quite tedious, it’s still amazingly fun.
Planet Terror, despite having a suitably ramshackle plot, is the more entertaining of the two films. It feels much more like those grade-A Gouda flicks of the ‘70s than does its companion film. While you wouldn’t expect good performances during that era, the fact that stars like Naveen Andrews, Josh Brolin, Freddy Rodriguez and Bruce Willis try so hard to make it seem cheesy, the performances are most definitely noteworthy.
Working hard to bring his character some depth, Rodriguez delivers Grindhouse‘s best overall performance. His tow-truck driver El Wray’s sketchily drawn history is the source of entertainment as he tries to save the woman he loves from destruction. At his side, Rose McGowan plays Cherry Darling (one of two roles she plays in the double feature) and does surprisingly well with the material.
Everyone in Planet Terror lays it on thick. It makes for a marvelous and enjoyable experience. However, this film being first is a disservice to the entire production because Death Proof lacks a great deal in the fun department.
Tarantino’s pic, perhaps because of its lack of cheese, is relatively bland. The film features two sets of four women, each spending long periods of time discussing inane and rather disinteresting topics before being subjected to the film’s dispassionate violence.
The first set of girls, talking about their relationships and the radio show Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) puts on, drags for nearly an hour before we’re presented with an all-too-brief car accident sequence that leads us briefly to the hospital featured in the first film. Once done there, the film inexplicably and jarringly switches to another group of four girls, also discussing their lives. The difference is that they are now talking about the stunt film they are working on where the captivating Zoe (Zoe Bell) talks about her performance of ludicrously dangerous stunts for which the equally interesting Kim (Tracie Thoms) admonishes her.
They discover an old car for sale, a white 1970 Dodge challenger like one from the film Vanishing Point which gets Zoe in the mood to perform a dangerous stunt on the hood of the car with Kim driving. They are pursued by Stuntman Mike in the only exciting segment of the film: a car chase.
Tonally, the two films don’t fit well together. Despite having one scene in common, there is little to connect the films, which is exactly what would have happened in those types of double features. Even if they weren’t so diverse in their subjects, Death Proof prevents the film from reaching the perfection its attempting.
Judging the whole film together, you have an amazing experience, breaking it into parts results in a serious degradation of quality. Planet Terror and the trailers rate four stars while Tarantino’s Death Proof brings down the movies overall total with its three-star quality.
May 26, 2007