After a bank heist in Abilene with several casualties, the bank robber Seth Gecko and his psychopath and rapist brother Richard Gecko continue their crime spree in a convenience store in the middle of the desert while heading to Mexico with a hostage. They decide to stop for a while in a low-budget motel. Meanwhile the former minister Jacob Fuller is traveling on vacation with his son Scott and his daughter Kate in a RV. Jacob lost his faith after the death of his beloved wife in a car accident and quit his position of pastor of his community and stops for the night in the same motel Seth and Richard are lodged. When Seth sees the recreational vehicle, he abducts Jacob and his family to help his brother and him to cross the Mexico border, promising to release them on the next morning. They head to the truck drivers and bikers bar Titty Twister where Seth will meet with his partner Carlos in the dawn. When they are watching the dancer Santanico Pandemonium, Seth and Richard fight with ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are probably the two most recognizable faces of the generation of filmmakers who had their start in the independent scene of the early 90s. Rodriguez had a tremendous success with his western-inspired action movie "El Mariachi" while Tarantino reached fame and glory after updating heist movies in "Reservoir Dogs". Their friendship lead them to make movies together starting with "Four Rooms", but together with make-up masters Kurtzman, Nicotero and Berger the two young directors crafted one of the most original movies of the 90s: "From Dusk Till Dawn".
The plot starts with the escape of two criminal brothers, Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Tarantino himself) and their effort to reach Mexico kidnapping the family of a faith-less preacher named Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) who was traveling with his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and his son Scott (Ernest Liu). In their escape the group will arrive to a Mexican strip club where nothing is what it seems.
The story (by Kurtzman) is a very good mix of action, western and horror cleverly put together in Tarantino's witty script. Rodriguez direction gives the film the a 70s feeling that gives the movie a Drive-In spirit pretty much in tone with the plot. In fact, at times the film feels like an updated version of exploitation action films of that era. This lack of pretensions makes it even more enjoyable as it never tries to be something else than pure entertainment.
The movie is interestingly divided in two, the first half dedicated to establishing the relationships between the characters, particularly the complicated clash of the Geckos and the Fullers, in a typical Tarantino style crime/drama fashion; on the other hand, the second half is an action packed thrill ride on the style of 70s action movies that clearly shows John Carpenter's influence over Rodriguez. While it is definitely a tribute to their influences, the Rodriguez/Tarantino team create a solid movie that stands on its own as a very original take on horror movies.
The acting is very effective, with George Clooney carrying the film as the cool-headed older brother who has to take care of his psychotic younger brother. Tarantino is average, but he was certainly having fun with the role. Keitel is terrific as always and is perfect as the faithless pastor who doesn't trust in God anymore. Apearances by Salma Hayek and make-up virtuoso Tom Savini have small but unforgettable roles. Savini steals the film in his role as a biker that brings back memories of his part in Romero's classic "Dawn of the Dead". All in all is a very complete and solid cast that certainly gives the movie a very special flavor.
The special effects by KNB are top-notch, but the CGI used in some scenes is poor when compared to the traditional prosthetic make-up employed in the rest of the film. While the violence is never intended to be realistic, the poor CGI at times make it look more cartoon-like than what it was supposed to be, but it is not a real damaging flaw and the film is still highly enjoyable.
Rodriguez has always done films to have fun, and this is what has set him apart from other filmmakers (Tarantino included). His lack of pretensions and his dedication to his craft seem to transmit the fun he has making movies to the audience who watches them. While his films may not have an introspective depth or a high philosophical meaning, they work perfectly as entertainment of the highest quality. This underrated film is probably among his best and most enjoyable films of his young career. 8/10
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