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's a bit of a mess, but like all car crashes, you can't help but stare at it.
Clunky editing, grainy filming, laughable stories, ultra-violence and exploitation in the guise of feminism and blacksploitation. Not the most appealing of conventions when it comes to the modern cinema audience. Perhaps this explains, to a certain extent, why the old drive-in formula of watching back-to-back trashy hardcore exploitation films was lost on American audiences. Grindhouse took a paltry $4.2 million on its opening weekend and has thus far failed to make back even half the double movie's budget. This despite most critics who went to see it having nothing but praise for Tarantino and chums. But apparently only seeing the numbers, Quentin and co-director Robert Rodriguez decided it would be best to split their respective stories apart, and release them as two movies in the UK, flying in the face of Grindhouse logic.
The first of these films, is Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's homage to the likes of producer Roger Corman's Deathrace 2000 and director Jack Hill's Switchblade Sisters (1975), with Kurt Russell's Stuntman Mike having an unhealthy obsession with crashing into cars driven by young ladies. An appropriately stupid premise tailor-made for a grindhouse market. Why then does the film seem so incidental when attempting to recreate the vibe of a Corman-style trash fest? The long and short answer is that this isn't really a grindhouse film. It is a Tarantino film with the ghosts of so many bad old movies hovering over it. Yes you get the grainy film footage, and the purposefully poor editing that raise the chuckles they crave. But that quickly fades away, and Tarantino very quickly moves into familiarly talkative territory akin to hit men talking about European hamburgers or bank robbers musing about the veracity of Madonna's hit single "Like A Virgin". Although this is not entirely a bad thing, it is not inherently valid for this type of material. Tarantino can't help but overload his scenes with meaningless meandering, almost as if he has reached the point of aimless directorial swaggery. One scene, for instance, involves one of the girls buying a magazine at a gas station. A simple interaction that goes on forever it would seem, failing to tell us anything about the characters or indeed the plot. At least Pulp Fiction had meaning behind the mundanity of its own inhabitants. I did often wonder if much of this was down to Tarantino having to bulk up his film after splitting it from Planet Terror. It has the veneer of a movie in desperate need of a good editor, much in the same way that Kill Bill vol. 2 needed a good spit shine. And then we have the actual car scenes. Well barring the ultra-violent central car crash that splits the film's two female groups, and the climactic car chase (expertly executed) Death Proof is nothing more than a girls gone hiking film. Again, blame the editing, for an awful lot of this movie creates a hugely diverting story of girls pontificating the kind of popular interests that only Tarantino would make them do, such as a love for the film Vanishing Point or Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch. Is it stylish? Absolutely. No Tarantino film could ever bore you aesthetically, or indeed talk you to death with insipid dialogue. Even if it is uneven and ponderous, listening to these characters waffle on about nothing in particular is still executed smoothly and embodies that Tarantino air of coolness. Maybe the inevitable release of Grandhouse as a whole will win over my heart more. It's a bit of a mess, but like all car crashes, you can't help but stare at it.
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