GRINDHOUSE! How I waited for this movie. Here at Feo Amante's Horror Thriller, we love anything and everything by Tarantino and Rodriguez, and of all of us who contribute to this site, that especially includes me.
Now hit the brakes.
I thoroughly enjoyed the campiness and sly humor of the first half of GRINDHOUSE, Robert Rodriguez' PLANET TERROR. It was a far better movie than the cheap double features it sought to emulate.
I cannot say that about Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF. It was inevitable that it would happen, and it finally did. Quentin reached a low point in his career.
After we go through a few fun fake trailers and an old clip of early Canadian rating animation (the cute blue kitty that becomes a black panther to warn the audience that this is, indeed, RABID! - I mean, a restricted rating), we get to DEATH PROOF. It starts off well enough. A lovely young pantied woman is getting dressed and calling her friends together for a night on the town.
Next we find ourselves in a car with the three friends. Panty girl is Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Portier: Snoop Dogg's HOOD OF HORROR), Lana Frank (Monica Staggs: SPECIES II), and their out of town New Yorker friend, Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito: SPIDER-MAN 2).
Let me say a word here about Tarantino's penchant for long dialogs and monologues in his films. They drive modern purist screenwriters crazy. "You can't have long conversations and monologue in a movie!" they chide. "If your character goes more than two lines into saying anything, you've gone too far." Yet every Tarantino fan knows and loves the "I don't tip" conversation in RESERVOIR DOGS. We love the multiple monologues by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, the "Watch up my ass" monologue of Christopher Walken in the same movie, and so many others from FROM DUSK TILL DAWN to Dennis Hopper's smile as he finishes his story and says, "Tell me, am I lying?"
Tarantino loves to have his characters tell stories. And the great thing about that is, the reason we watch it and it doesn't even slow the movie down for a second, is that his characters tell such great stories! Man you WANT to know where this story is going, why the sucker is telling it, and how it could possibly tie in with what all is going on.
Tarantino loves to have his characters tell compelling stories!
But these three gals don't really tell any stories. They laugh with each other. They jive. They half-ass reminisce. They bitch about who has what and who better get that and then they all cheer when they see a billboard advertising their friend because Jungle Julia is one red-hot DJ in San Antonio. But this long ass car ride is going nowhere, except to a restaurant/bar.
Now the gals sit down and get to conversing.
And they've got nothing to say.
And they won't stop saying it.
A minor story pops up about a challenge announced to the men out in radioland from Jungle Julie. It's an interesting tale and you know it is going somewhere. But not for a long time. And until it does, we got babble.
And more babble.
Jesus H. Christ they won't shut up. They have angst! They have rue! And the theater is turning into a morgue (Rue! Morgue! Rue-Morgue! HA! - but seriously). Quentin, dude! WTF were you thinking? You've done SO much better than this!
A wizened and scarred up old guy named Stuntman Mike shows up (Kurt Russell: THE THING, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, BREAKDOWN [A far better hard-core car chase movie]), and things get to clickin' - while they stay with him - as Kurt carries a predatory smile and barely hidden threat.
After some Merry Mishaps and a replay of a joke from PLANET TERROR - which cuts out the much promised lap dance - we come to a second group of gals in Tennessee. This time the conversation around the table is good and has a freaking point. Then it continues to hammer home the point as if we aren't getting it.
Then it CONTINUES to hammer home the point as if they are doing this just to make fun of the innocent in their group. This group of friends consists of Zoe Bell (as herself, Uma's fabled stunt woman in KILL BILL also PENNY DREADFUL), Kim (Tracie Thoms: DESCENT), Abernathy (Rosario Dawson: MEN IN BLACK II, SIN CITY), and Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead: WOLF LAKE, THE RING TWO, FINAL DESTINATION 3, BLACK CHRISTMAS ). The gals are being watched by Stuntman Mike, who seems to have been trailing them for sometime, waiting for his moment to appear. They are all oblivious to Mike, of course, but that is about to change.
In the final analysis, most of DEATH PROOF is a drag and not the fun kind. Cutting a good 30 minutes out of it would have made for a much better movie and less ass-time in the theater seat. It should have lost two reels instead of one. Only in the next to last car chase does Quentin redeem the film enough to avoid my giving it a single Shriek Girl. He shot the most harrowing car chase I've ever seen on film in my life. I'm not kidding. This chase will have you on the edge of your seat and alone is worth the price of admission, bumping up my review from one to Two Shriek Girls. Enjoy that car chase, because the result of it is the movie taking a downturn nearly to the end.
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