In Austin, Texas, the girlfriends Julia, Arlene and Shanna meet in a bar to drink, smoke and make out with their boyfriends before traveling alone to Lake LBJ to spend the weekend together. They meet the former Hollywood stuntman Mike, who takes Pam out in his "death-proof" stunt car. Fourteen months later, Mike turns up in Lebanon, Tennessee and chase Abernathy, Zoë and Kim, but these girls are tough and decide to pay-back the attack. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It all started as an homage to old exploitation cinema and double feature screenings. It was meant to be one of the most shamelessly entertaining films of the year. Sadly, after flopping in the US, Grindhouse has been chopped in two, with Quentin Tarantino's segment, Death Proof, being the first to be released on its own after competing at the Cannes Film Festival. It is not presented in its Grindhouse version, which included scratches, dirt, missing reels and other visual aging techniques; instead, we get the full cut, containing additional information regarding certain plot points and a few "juicy" bits that were left out first time around (a hot lap dance being the best new scene). And while it certainly would be fun to see the entire double-bill in all its glory (hopefully it will get a worldwide DVD release), I must say I really enjoyed QT's half as a separate picture.
As this is intended to be Tarantino's answer to '60s and '70s B-movies, the plot of Death Proof is extremely simple: there is a psychopath, named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who enjoys killing women with his car, a virtually indestructible vehicle ("This car is 100% death proof. Only to get the benefit of it, honey, you REALLY need to be sitting in my seat!"). Whenever he arrives in a new town he selects a group of girls and sets his perverse plan into motion. And unless he runs into someone who is as crazy or drives as well as him, there is no way to stop him.
Those expecting QT's usual stream of film references will be disappointed: apart from a hilarious restaurant scene that sort of spoofs the opening of Reservoir Dogs and a couple of nods to similarly themed horror flicks (and, of course, the casting of Russell, which is a deliberate homage to John Carpenter), the director is not interested in exposing his absolute knowledge of this kind of cinema. This time, he delivers a straightforward genre movie, albeit with his trademark tough women at the center. The trailer promised a wildly fun B-movie, and that's exactly what Death Proof is: a movie like they don't make anymore, old-fashioned, irony-free and exciting as hell.
However, this does not mean Tarantino has set his visual or verbal obsessions aside: the dialogue is as imaginative and surreal as it has always been, and there are enough shots of bare female feet to keep fans happy. Naturally, being this a QT flick, those feet belong to a quality cast: the only real star in the film (apart from the villain, that is) is Rosario Dawson, but she is part of a talented ensemble, which includes Vanessa Ferlito (CSI: NY), Rose McGowan (Scream) and stunt-woman Zoe Bell (who doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill). The mention of honor, though, goes to Russell, who finally has the opportunity to go all bad again, and boy, does he go bad: even when he is pretending to be a friendly chap who offers you a ride home, he exudes a sense of menace that doesn't leave until the end of the picture. Also worth praise are Michael Parks, reprising his role of foul-mouthed sheriff Earl McGraw (of From Dusk till Dawn and Kill Bill fame) and tying the two halves of the film together, and Tarantino himself, popping up as smug, ridiculously likable bartender Warren. The latter is particularly charming because, unlike other times (From Dusk's Richie Gekko is a good example), QT does not try to prove he can act (although he pulled off a remarkable job in Alias). He's just there for the sheer fun, like everyone else.
Pure, unadulterated fun and excitement: that's the key to appreciating Death Proof. Do not expect a smart, unusual take on an overused genre, like the director has done in the past: this time around, he sticks to the rules, delivering a loud, silly, sexy, violent piece of Entertainment with a capital "e". It may not be the best film of 2007, but it sure as hell is one of the most purely enjoyable.
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