Directed and written by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Additional directors: Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie
Dimension Films, 2007
191 minutes, R
After seeing the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature, “Grindhouse,” I felt as if I walked into a party where I wasn’t invited. And I was sober. The features were tributes to the horror/exploitation pictures of the ’60s, and were explained to be homage to the double-feature parties Tarantino and Rodriguez would put on for their friends. The first feature, “Planet Terror,” supported this feeling of “a party” with inside jokes, strong women roles to please the lady friends and of course, zombie-like enemies, everybody’s favorite.
Toward the end of the movie, a character played by Tarantino (just to remind the viewers that he was a part of this, no doubt) picks two scantily-clad female characters out from the group and sticks them in a room where they wait to be messed with or worse. While waiting, the girls have a conversation about “keeping one’s chin up” and one of them expresses a feeling of weariness about having so many useless talents. The other character assures her that every talent will be put to use at some point in her life. Rodriguez’s attempt to stick some soul into what is valueless and silly simply added to the lack of value and the silliness. The weary character is very flexible. When she loses her leg to a zombie, the hero character attaches a machine gun to her stump. She uses her flexibility to kill things, not without the sexiest expression of hatred and passion possible painted on her face.
The second feature, Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” has more to it. He shows us two separate groups of lively young women, both hunted by ex-stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). He uses his battle-prepared “death-proof” car to terrify and kill those who are happy, pretty and free. The first group of girls spends all night drinking and talking at a local bar, and Tarantino lets his style shine with that clever dialogue he’s known for. When the girls leave the bar and start to drive home, tipsy and stoned, stuntman Mike, the predator, turns his headlights off in the night and head-on rams the car. He kills them easily.
The camera quickly shifts to something entirely different. The viewer meets four girls in the picture business, two of them stunt women, one a ditsy, basically ignored actress, and the other a peaceful motherly type played by Rosario Dawson. Tarantino lets these characters share more thoughtful words when compared to the first group of friends. Unlike the other girls, this thoughtful group shows a bit more soul. In the way of Tarantino’s blockbuster films “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” here he uses density of conversation to strengthen half-dimensional gangsters.
If you’re in need of some gender-based warfare, “Death Proof” will leave you satisfied at least to the very end of the movie.