Death Proof Review
So, Death Proof reaches these shores on its own, leaving its partner in crime, Planet Terror, waiting in the wings with no fixed release date. The question on every film fans lips must be “why don’t we get to see Grindhouse the way its makers intended?” For the uninitiated, Grindhouse is a double bill harking back to the days of American grindhouse cinemas, where two unrelated and exploitative films would be shown, usually with scant regard for quality and with subject matters generally including forbidden sex, violence, drug use, gore and monsters. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have always been fans of the genre so decided to make their own, Tarantino directing one half, Death Proof, and Rodriguez helming Planet Terror, with the two halves separated by trailers, directed by the likes of Eli Roth and Edgar Wright, for nonexistent films. High hopes were raised the minute the project was announced only for them to be shot down in flames once the film opened in the U.S. For some reason the Americans just didn’t get it! There were reports of customers complaining about the quality of the film and a lot of people walking out after the first feature, not realising that there was a second one on the way.
There is a positive side to this, in that Tarantino has gone back and made his film longer, so the version we see is now 20 minutes longer than the Grindhouse version. The big question is, will we Brits get the joke, or will it be lost on us too? The answer really depends on how tolerant you are of in jokes and self referential film making, because make no mistake, this really is a film aimed at film fans, or to be more precise film geeks!
The story is simplicity itself. An out of work stuntman (Kurt Russell) travels the back roads of America in his souped up stunt car looking for pretty girls that he can later smash into at great speed. That’s it! The structure is very basic as well, 30 minutes of trademark Tarantino dialogue followed by a car crash, 40 minutes of dialogue followed by an extended car chase and a car crash. It’s the simplest and most linear film that Tarantino has ever made, eschewing his usual style of showing things from differing points of view and jumping back and forth in the storyline. He still insists on appearing in his own films though, and someone really should tell him that, as good as he is as a director, an actor he certainly isn’t!
Your enjoyment of the film will depend on your liking for Tarantino’s hip and trendy dialogue as well as your tolerance for seeing girls in peril. The first car crash is horrific and is likely to turn a few stomachs, while the climactic car chase involves a girl hanging on to the bonnet for dear life while being run off the road. Personally, I have to say that I loved it, the film references come thick and fast, and even the music played at every turn triggers some cinematic memory, and Tarantino’s obvious love of the genre shines through every frame. Whether the average cinema goer will feel the same is questionable, it will all depend on their tolerance for a scratchy picture, crackly soundtrack, scenes jumping back to the start for no reason, characters being killed and reappearing later as new characters, cast members credited at the start but never appearing…I could go on! A lot of the artier newspapers will no doubt try to psychoanalyse the content and try to lay claims of misogyny and exploitation at Tarantino’s door, but they would be missing the point. This isn’t a film to study, it’s a film to switch off your brain to, and just go along for the joyride.
A lot to deal with then for the uninitiated, but for anyone willing to give themselves over to Tarantino’s experiment they should find themselves richly rewarded. Let’s hope Planet Terror lives up to the high standards set here.
Death Proof is currently scheduled to go on general release in UK cinemas on 21st September 2007.