Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to see half of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. Tarantino’s film a road movie/slasher film Death Proof had a lot to live up to and the man himself has conducted a huge press blitz hitting television shows, magazines and news papers over here in the UK. As you all know, I’d been looking forward to this film for quite a while, I was able to get over the disappointment and try and enjoy Death Proof for what it really is; the new Quentin Tarantino film.
The main question is how does it stack up against his past films?
It doesn’t really, and on the whole it is a disappointment. Tarantino has written some of the most original films of the last twenty years and Death Proof comes up way short when compared to Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. The best way to look at the films is as a cinematic experiment, much like Steven Soderbergh’s recent The Good German it takes the conventions and style of a genre from a previous time and presents them to modern audiences. An experiment that like Soderbergh’s wasn’t a complete success.
In many ways it’s just too much of an indulgence to really be enjoyed and I feel that the shorter version of the film that was shown as part of the Grindhouse double bill would have been vast improvement. There’s just something lacking in the film, pace, urgency and thrills. The film starts off well and there is a good sense of foreboding that recalls John Carpenter’s Halloween as we see Kurt Russell’s Death Proof car glide through the streets of Austin. This tension however wanes as the film seems to slow in the “newly added character beats”. The film almost turns into an Austin set version of Sex and The City as there are continuous scene’s of women sitting around talking and drinking.
With the introduction of Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike there is an added sense of menace. Russell seems to really enjoy the role and he gives a great John Wayne impersonation in one scene. However we don’t really get to see that he is that evil and I feel that even a scene showing newspaper headlines showing his work or even a montage of his past kills would have added so much more to his character. Tarantino said that Russell’s Stuntman Mike would be an iconic character to match his Jack Burton or Snake Plissken, sadly this isn’t to be as he just doesn’t get enough screen time. Russell is however the best thing in the movie and by the end of the film I was rooting for him!
It’s not a total disappointment however. Stuntman Mike’s first kill is interestingly shot and shown from many different gory perspectives and the climatic car chase has much to recommend. As always there is a good soundtrack, but what else do you expect from Tarantino? It is an interesting film and I hope to enjoy it more on DVD or when I get to see the shorter version attached to Planet Terror (if that ever happens).
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t detest Death Proof, I just feel that it came up short on what was promised. Maybe the film was over hyped and maybe I’d built myself up for it to match my expectations. I just hope that Tarantino isn’t losing it and that he isn’t surrounded by too many “yes men”. With a bit of luck maybe he’ll take a step back before deciding to make another passion project and ask himself “is there an audience for this?”