Death Proof Review
"There's a reason why they put those boring scenes in movies" -Quentin Tarantino
I remember a time when pop music was all about singles rather than long players. A lot of pop acts at that time simply didn't know how to make 35 - 50 minutes of coherent music to release an album and would include any old nonsense and throwaway songs to simply fill the record. This helped to sate the eager audience's desire for product whilst ensuring that all the quality songs weren't used in one go. I say this as watching Tarantino's Death Proof is the cinematic equivalent of filler tracks on albums to pad out the two decent singles. Faced with almost two hours expected of him from the cinema audience, QT recycles, flannels and improvises in order to make two set pieces stretch over the full running time.
This is his tribute to exploitation movies and a bit of homage is necessary, isn't it? The homages to Russ Meyer, Jack Hill and Dario Argento are all rather affectionate and deliberately done. For Dario, QT copies the camera perspective of the beginning of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and just to make sure we get it, he even throws in the soundtrack music from Ennio Morricone. His film captures the look of those old films much more successfully than the rather digitised approach that Rodrigues took in Planet Terror and his decision to be his own DP gives the film a level of roughness in the visuals that feels authentic. In fact, Tarantino captures the spirit of these kind of films well and has the look down pat.
But, and it's a but bigger than the endless stream of derriéres QT serves up for both the camera and Kurt Russell's serial killer, this seems to be the film where QT starts homageing himself. We get a diner table conversation shot and scripted very like the same one in Reservoir dogs, and a lot of the dialogue for the black characters feeling like Samuel L Jackson's hand me downs. Another problem is that the majority of the characters are women and QT gives them words and attitude no different to his early male heavy films. It has been said before about the director, but when does homage become simple copying and isn't it rather a cheat to start copying yourself. It's rather too easy and it all smacks of a lack of effort with the first half of the film being rather too like the second half with only the outcome of each segment reflecting any real difference.
This is a rather thinly spread repast. The joy of the films that inspired this flick is their passion to entertain and here QT's movie falls short, and many will feel that two set-pieces in 109 minutes is not enough bang for their buck. Perhaps you will come wanting some trademark dialogue and there is certainly plenty of that, and I am sure some would argue that QT uses the dialogue to normalise the characters, introduce them and set up the shocks for their eventual fates. To my ears though, these cool conversations are circular, empty chat that Tarantino has drawn on too often before.
QT gets away with this laziness when his dialogue is clever or when the action is worth the wait, and, sure enough, the two action set-pieces are fun but the fact that we only have two set-pieces with shedloads of boring dialogue left my index finger wandering to the fast forward button. Like the Kill Bill films, QT needs a more honest editor and some better advice on his scripts as he is becoming the director who is all filler and no tunes. Death Proof is worth catching as Kurt Russell gets another chance to do his John Wayne impression, and it gives some fine oldies an airing for the hip kids, but it is 70% dud words and only 30% entertainment.
This two disc edition serves up more QT than you could shake a stick at. There are endless featurettes where QT speaks directly to camera, gesticulating like some kind of movie guru and occasionally others are allowed to talk in order to tell us what a marvellous man he is. So the stunt co-ordinator gets a few seconds to talk during the stunts featurette after our visionary auteur has told the world of his intentions to keep it real with the cars, the crashes and the set-pieces. This happens again with the Zoe Bell featurette where QT talks about using her for Kill Bill and deciding to cast her here and she responds with what a dear the man is. And again in the casting of the female characters where our auteur explains why he chose the women and they tell you that the balding, spreading director is a dream to work with. Even the Kurt Russell piece has 95% Tarantino and a few taciturn words from Russell who of course says what a dream it is to work with the great man. For a film that is overblown with dialogue, these extras prove that QT is unfailingly verbose.
Those features which aren't about a directorial monologue include Mary Elisabeth Winstead singing Baby It's You in an extended scene, 17 lobby cards in a photo gallery, and trailers in their international and UK versions. There is also a trailer for the documentary Double Dare which centres on Zoe Bell. The most ironic extra for a film and package which is packed to the seams with Tarantino excess is a piece where he gives kudos to Sally Menke, his over sympathetic editor.
The feature is presented at 2.35:1 in a progressive transfer and is sharp with excellent contrast. Colours are managed well and the fake print wearing devices are incorporated into the look of the film. The soundtrack is courtesy of a single Dolby 5.1 mix which is recorded at 448 kbits and is crystal clear bar the odd deliberate pop or hum. The bass is strong and the sub-woofer is used extensively for the crashes and roars of car engines, the dialogue is mixed in the front and side channels with the effects distributed around the whole range of speakers. This means that the effect is not one of proper 3-D sound but a too finely produced soundtrack would be a little distracting in a movie that is meant to be rough and ready.
For a film-maker who has concentrated on delivering films for the cool kids, Death Proof doesn't work all that well. Like Kill Bill overall, it is far too long and edited with a lack of economy which makes the action sequences lose their impact. QT's films since Jackie Brown have shown a regression in his abilities and here he can't be trusted to keep it fun and not over indulge. If you found the film creaking under the weight of its filler in terms of dialogue, you will discover that this 2 disc package will give you even more of the unnecessary stuff.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:27:55