Featuring: Kurt “Escape From New York” Russell , Rosario “Clerks II” Dawson , Zoë “Game of Death (2011)” Bell
Director & Writer: Quentin “Inglourious Basterds” Tarantino
Also Known As: Death Proof
I mean, “proof”… here’s Death Proof…
Quentin Tarantino comes in with the second feature of Grindhouse and, unlike Planet Terror‘s demolition derby of start-to-finish action and gore, Death Proof makes you earn that privilege by sitting through a lot of characterization and dialogue first. In other words, it’s a Tarantino movie. I’ve never had a problem with Quentin’s movies, I just hate the man himself because he’s a spazzy little pissant that should never be allowed to do interviews or step foot in the general public. But, if I was going to be slowly driven insane by listening to actors spew lines of vulgarity and pop culture references at each other until it pulled a Chinese Water Torture on my frontal lobe, I’d want it to be written by QT…or Kevin Smith.
Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is, well, a former stuntman, in case you didn’t catch that part of his name. Mike used to do a lot of “falling off horses” stand-in work in the old days of TV westerns before falling back on car crash stunts when he ran out of actors to look like. But, in this modern day of Hollywood penny pinching bullshit like computer graphics imaging, jobs are scarce for guys like Mike. With all this free time on his hands, Mike’s got plenty of opportunities to find new ways to keep himself entertained. Whereas most normal guys would simply work on their porn collection or take up a hobby like pyrography, Mike instead discovered his new fetish: killing women!
Mike’s technique of choice isn’t anything as simple as stabbing, shooting or strangulation, though. Instead, he likes to involve them in violent car wrecks the likes of which no one could ever possibly walk away from. This way, said meticulously plotted slaughters can never really be seen as anything more than one guy’s unfortunate string of car wrecks. Would-be accusations of stuff like “premeditated murder” are immediately followed by stuff like “no concrete evidence”, so Mike gets away with little more than a brief stint in a hospital room for a broken bone or two, which is all in a day’s work for a stuntman anyway. But how does SM pull off such a thing without getting himself an early ride to the grave in the process? Turns out that stuntmen can super reinforce a car in a way that guarantees the driver will not be killed should the car be otherwise destroyed. This method is called…wait for it… “death proofing”.
That’s right kids, we have ourselves a title.
So, we have our antagonist. Now, where will we find him some victims? Enter Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thoms), Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Zoe (real life stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself!) – four friends looking for fun. Ab, Kim and Lee are all on break from their current jobs on the set of the latest Lindsey Lohan tripe, which gives them time to hang out with their pal Zoe who’s in town visiting from New Zealand. Seems that while she’s here, Zoe plans to live out a longtime goal of riding on the hood of a car (a game she calls “ship’s mast”) that’s the exact make and model of her panty-peeler fantasy ride from the cult classic carsploitation movie Vanishing Point – a white 1970 Dodge Challenger.
As luck would have it, such a car is being offered for sale by one of the yokels in the Tennessee area where the ladies are residing! After Ab sweet talks the car’s slack-jawed stereotype into letting the gals take a test drive (which includes a terrifying allusion to leaving Lee, cheerleader costume and all, behind so Billy-Bob can “get to know her”), the remaining trio of ladies take the Challenger out for a spin. Too bad for the babes that what starts off as a dream come true for Zoe turns into a car chase nightmare when who else but our homicidal hombre Mike, out of the hospital and behind the wheel of his newly proofed Chevy Nova, is back on the prowl to grind more fresh lady flesh under his Goodyears. What follows is one of the greatest car chase finales since The Road Warrior.
As mentioned before, the movie’s a bit talky. Since Grindhouse is over 3 hours long, people are going to be begging for any opportunity to hit the restroom and empty their Pampers. My best recommendation would be to drain the reservoirs during the first 20 minutes of so of Death Proof. If you love Tarantino’s writing you might want to ignore what I just said, but if you’re not the type who absolutely must see half an hour or so of characters being established only to have all of that effort flushed in the long run, heed my words. I could live with seeing everything before the first car accident scene trimmed down considerably, then leaving the last half of the movie as is, to be honest. But, like everything else on this website, that’s just my opinion. Despite the innately inessential opening act, the latter half of the flick makes sitting through the first half so worth the effort.
Kurt Russell looks like he had as much fun playing the weathered Stuntman Mike as Tarantino probably had directing the whole movie (despite its lack of his infamous inclusion of n-word carpet bombing the script). The man-who-was-Snake runs the range from funny to creepy to charming to pathetic and he does it all with a wink and a smile. His performance is nothing if not a blast to watch… sorry, “blast” was the best word I could come up with when typing this.
The cast of gals are all having a lot of fun here too and it shows. Zoe Bell should definitely mix in more actual acting roles with her stunt work (FYI: she was Uma Thurman’s double for the Kill Bill movies) and she looks like she’s genuinely having a pisser of a time riding that hood. Tracie Thoms is the definition of “crazy bitch” as she hoots, hollers and curses her way through the last 30 minutes of the movie and makes me wish I was cool enough to hang out with her. And Rosario Dawson? I’ve fallen in love with her all over again since the first time she made me do so in Clerks II. She’s cool, she’s sweet, she’s hot, she’s adorable, she’s a FUCKING COMIC GEEK and, when it gets down to it, she’s a hellacious bruiser! Her best moment? Wait till about two seconds after “The End” pops up on the screen and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
As with Planet Terror, everybody else on the credits scroll did their job and that’s about all I can say about that. Eli Roth (who directed the Thanksgiving trailer I’ll be mentioning later) and Tarantino himself have small roles too – Quentin as a friendly bartender and Roth as a patron at said bar trying to get his ovarian target for the night drunk enough to go home with her. Can’t say I blame him though, as I can only imagine the looks he gets when he tells chicks, “Yeah, I’m the guy who made Hostel! Wanna go back to my place and shit on my chest?”.
Aside from the two or three hundred movie references Tarantino drops throughout the dialogue (you’d think he was making a commission on DVD sales from these things…), I’m sorry to say that I’m not a follower of car chase flicks, so many of the tribute pieces were probably lost on me. For instance, if my mother-in-law hadn’t pointed out that the chrome duck hood ornament on Mike’s car was an homage to one used in the movie Convoy, I would’ve just seen a stupid chrome rubber duck. The one thing that I did pick up on (at least I think so…) was a scene where Stuntman Mike plows through a roadside movie marquee advertising a double feature for Scary Movie 4 and a Wolf Creek sequel. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m gonna say that this is a little tribute to Wes Craven’s now classic use of a torn Jaws poster in the original The Hills Have Eyes as a way to say that the latter was a superior scare flick in comparison to the former. Did Tarantino use this to say that the double feature in Grindhouse is superior to an imaginary double feature of these other non-existent movies, or am I just reading too much into it? More importantly, do you care? Me neither.
As far as the Grindhouse gimmick goes, Tarantino shies away from the liberal use of film scratches and superficial burns that Rodriguez leaned on for Planet Terror, opting instead for other loving faux faults like audio hiccups and a couple of frames missing from the reel that cause cars to suddenly disappear, small pieces of conversation to be left out and people to magically teleport from one place to another. He also does a great bit with the opening credits, in which the title card for the movie’s original fake original title of “Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt” is clipped out for a generic looking still of the alternate title (that of course being “Death Proof”) printed in white on a base black background. That was a definite favorite moment for me. This movie’s “Missing Reel” moment is a lap dance scene that I couldn’t care less about missing to be honest, so if this was never shot and doesn’t make it into the DVD, I won’t mind.
For you trivia hounds out there, Stuntman Mike got into the stuntman biz through his brother, Stuntman Bob. If that helps you win ‘Jeopardy’ someday, you owe me 20%!
All in all, I meant what I said and I said what I meant: I recommend Grindhouse 100%. And now, for the “coming attractions”…
I’m going to talk about two of Grindhouse’s fake trailers here and the other two in my review for Planet Terror, so if you haven’t checked that out yet, do so when you’re done here.
The first trailer (which is actually the third trailer shown throughout the length of the double feature) is Don’t. In a hilarious lampooning of the infamous “Don’t [Action to be Disparaged Goes Here]” movie titles US release companies gave European releases in the States during the sleazy ‘70s, Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright previews a fake movie for us about people trapped in a haunted house, including the director’s frequent collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Pushing the joke all the way, the trailer is entirely narration (by Will Arnett) with none of the actors getting off any actual lines, a trick used by said US releasing companies 30 years ago when they didn’t want potential audience members to know that the European movies being released under these new pseudonyms were cast with actors of heavy accents, worried it would turn people off. Much like Shaun of the Dead, this trailer’s literally brilliant and uses the underlying humor of its source material to full comedy effect. If I were the kind of guy who rated trailers, this would be a five star all the way!
Our final trailer is from Cabin Fever horror wunderkind Eli Roth, who brings us a parody of ‘70s and ‘80s holiday gimmick slasher movies called Thanksgiving that seems to be equal parts Halloween and My Bloody Valentine homage humor. The trailer goes for total shock factor, dick slapping everybody with graphically implied sex scenes and over-the-top gore. To put it in terms of audience reaction, everybody in the theater was laughing for Don’t, then groaning and gasping as loud and painfully as possible for Thanksgiving. Severed heads aplenty here, along with Cinemax level softcore scenes of chicks giving out blow jobs like they were Christian propaganda fliers, a disturbing scene of a topless cheerleader on a trampoline getting a very sharp alternative to a Tampax shoved up her birth canal, and a baffling final scene of someone cooked and stuff like a giant turkey before a very brief glimpse of what looks like Roth himself being sodomized at a dinner table…what the fuck?! Roth has shown he likes shock value over “artistic vision” and I’d definitely watch Thanksgiving as a feature, just to say I sat through it without blinking…because I’m a desensitized sociopath. Though I can appreciate some fairly done graphic violence and sex, the actual urge to see something like this isn’t as inspiring as I think the man was trying to do. 3 out of 5.
Xtro: Okay, for starters allow me to redact my pissing and moaning about Tarantino being a spaz, as it’s hypothesized that the mad genius of genre tropes and snappy dialogue may well have Asperger’s or at least fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I’m not saying he needs to be pitied as a result, I’m just over being annoyed by his manic mannerisms and “too much cocaine in his coffee” personality. Considering the mental demolition derby I’ve been involved in in recent years myself, that would also make me a bit of a hypocrite. And remember kids, it’s not hip to be a hypocrite… just ignore the difference in spelling there. My PSA is still viable, G.I. Jerkoff.
Unlike Planet Terror, Death Proof‘s special effects skew more traditional to the grindhouse theme, opting for what at least looks like 100% practical magic (housewife witchery not included) rather than dicking with digital deceptions. This ain’t no Fast and Furious fuckery, fanboys! This is a straight up traditional car-on-car bump n’ grind! And what did R. Kelly teach us before he was trapped in his closet and pissing on teenage girls? There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little bump n’ grind. Or, if you too were raised on Mad Max movies (like moi) or those classic off-the-radar car flicks of the ’70s, the old way is the only way. It’s an art form that, depressingly, has fallen victim to technology and breaks my heart…well, except for Mad Max: Fury Road, because I pray George Miller my soul to keep.
Tarantino also made Death Proof with what you’d imagine to be an anorexic budget, as its 2 hour run time takes place in fewer locations than an agoraphobic’s weekly routine. So much of it happens in a honky-tonk bar or a diner or on back roads or just in the cars themselves that it has to be Quentin’s most minimalist shoot outside of Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight. This doesn’t keep the man from shooting it all beautifully with his usual “100 different angles” style though, and even for someone who hasn’t spent so much as 5 minutes in a film class, it brings a tear to my eye and a jealousy to my heart. Speaking of jealousy, I imagine that most of the obscure movie posters and paraphernalia that decorates the sets belong to Tarantino himself, which no doubt saved a fair amount of pressure on the prop budget…unless he was smart and used said budget to buy a bunch of cool shit he himself didn’t already have, then just pocketed everything when the job was done.
The cast is fantastic, the direction and cinematography are beautiful (moreso if you’re a foot fetishist like QT, far less so if you’re a podophobic like my mother-in-law), if you’re a fan of Tarantino’s usual heavily scripted free-flowing dialogue by characters who would all kick your ass at Trivial Pursuit you’ll be happy to know it’s all there, the soundtrack is pitch perfect (because it’s gods damned Quentin Tarantino, so of fucking course it is), and the stunts are so eye blisteringly stellar that the team deserves a friggin’ constellation named after them! It’s almost a perfect movie. But…
The biggest problem I first had with DP (huh huh huh) was watching it directly after having sat through the 100+ minutes of Planet Terror. Even if I weren’t a lightweight when it comes to theatrical marathons (I’ve only watched two movies back-to-back in a theater twice), following up a zombie slaughtering action-comedy with a “talkie” that takes the better part of an hour before it sheds any blood? It’s a rough transition. I wouldn’t blame anyone who walked out, fell asleep in their seat, or passed on paying for a ticket altogether. Even as its own entity, I still have a major issue with the movie’s structure: it sandblasts my ass to introduce and flesh out a cast of characters just to kill them off halfway through the movie and introduce a second cast of would-be victims after. Why? Because the only person we follow throughout the flick is Stuntman Mike, but he’s less a main character than a catalyst! He’s the antagonist, fine, but we get no inclination of his motivation beyond that he’s a former fall guy who really hates women for… some… reason. Want to excuse this as part of the bad movie gimmick? No. If you’re giving us snappy dialogue delivered by talented actors but leaving out important background details about the only constant character in the movie, that’s flying like a lead zeppelin full of mud sharks.
My other gripe is the inconsistency of the grindhouse mimicry. The gimmick shit comes on heavy in the first few minutes with intentionally awkward cuts, audio skips, and that great title card change paving the way (pun intended). The grimy grainy motif carries on throughout the first half, but then the second half starts on an incredibly clean black & white scene (of which QT is keen) for reasons unseen. The colors come back on after the new apples of Mike’s evil eye are introduced, but the crisp look continues on until the finale. It’s an absolute orgasm for the oculars, especially now being able to see the grand 20 minute vroom vroom chase in 1080p, but why drop the titular shtick?! Punch my ticket and tickle my pickle.
And if you’re wondering if Tarantino’s penchant for excessively over-salting his scripts with a Lt. Col. Killgore level carpet-bombing of the n-word (and no, that’s not short for “napalm”), then yes. Not Samuel L. Jackson levels, granted, but Tracie Thoms does utter enough “niggas” to give Jeff Sessions a semi. So, if hearing said term churns your aural sensibilities, your ears will not be spared here.
While my reunion with Planet Terror reminded me just how much fun it is to watch, seeing Death Proof again bore me an all new respect for it. Despite my criticisms, I do appreciate the ass off of it! It’s not Quentin Tarantino’s best (in fact, he’s called it his worst), but it’s only one shelf below top shelf, and that makes it money in my book.
With that, kiddies, it’s time to say goodbye. Join us next episode when we get a visit from a certain team of super powered people who “guard” humanity from evil…
Moral of the Story: Bars offer all manner of pleasantries outside of booze. Alcohol is simply the lubricant for social interaction… unless you’re me, in which case alcohol is the legal anesthetic through which my body pisses off my brain by becoming completely unresponsive to any and all commands.
“I’m so glad I cut an emergency hole in all of my pants so I can plug up any unexpected leakage issues! Why doesn’t everybody do this?!”
“And then the monster was all like, ‘FIRE BAD!’ and shit. Hahahaha.”
“Bitch, does this look like an Appletini? If I wanted a margarita, I would’ve asked you to get me a margarita!”
Eli Roth wasn’t quite prepared for the vitriolic text he received from Keanu Reeves following the critical response to Knock Knock.
Cousin It spends yet another Saturday night dressed in drag and picking up strange men in bars, despite promising the rest of the Addams that it would never happen again after that weekend he spent locked up in Roman Polanski’s basement.
Special cameo by Eddie Izzard!
I wonder if he got that scar from eating pussy… or “pineapple” if we’re being censored.
In case you forgot you were watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. Oh well, it could be worse. At least his fetish isn’t school girls showing live eels up their butts or octogenarians shitting on Precious Moments Figurines!
If this were made in Japan, that would just be an indicator that she’s incredibly horny.
Beauford misread Jake’s comment and leaned in for a kiss that, sadly, would never come to pass. He and his broken heart resigned from the department shortly after to avoid the uncomfortable awkwardness between them that resulted, and spent the rest of his years married to Martha, dreaming of what could have been.
“Damn it, guys, I told you not to let Jenny have second and third helpings of chili for breakfast! I’m stuck back here with her for the next hour and it already smells like the ladies room at White Castle!”
A rare still from the long lost Michael Myers parody porn, “Hallowiener: Is That a Butcher Knife in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”. The producers were advised not to distribute it as a Betamax exclusive, but they insisted it was the wave of the future. But, as this ad proves, sometimes it takes more than sex to sell.
We’ve all been the odd one out when it came to 3 people riding in a 2 seater and you weren’t fast enough to call “shotgun”.
Despite his wealth and fame, Kurt Russell refuses to pay drive-in prices, opting instead to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from his neighbor’s roof.
“Well, it looks like Boss Hogg didn’t take too kindly to those Duke Boys leaving an upper decker in his private moonshine still, so it was up to Roscoe to put Bo and Luke on ice. And all this just hours before the annual Hazzard County ‘Wings & Wangs’ barbecue and penis measuring festival!”
Hey ladies, are your pants registered with Airbnb by any chance? Because I’d like to live in ’em for a few days while I’m in town! *rimshot*
“And THIS is for Overboard! You ruined my trust in men for years with what you did to Goldie Hawn, you sick freak!”
Anubis will return next time in
“In Soviet Russia, Copyright Laws Infringe You!”
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