Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Movie Review: "Death Proof"
Starring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Tracie Thoms, Sydney Poitier, Rose McGowan
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Official Web site
When “Grindhouse” hit theaters this past spring, it certainly sounded like a can’t-miss prospect – two popular and respected directors (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino) helming a double feature filled with fake trailers for other movies in between. But while critical response was largely positive, audiences generally stayed away, with “Grindhouse” pulling in only around $25 million at the box office – a notable and surprising flop.
The two films that made up “Grindhouse” have been split up for release on DVD with “Death Proof,” directed by Tarantino, the first out of the gate. While it certainly falls short of some of his classic previous work (“Pulp Fiction”), it does demonstrate his ability to capture the feel of a genre, as well as making the film stand on its own merits.
Tarantino is a well-documented movie geek who has a particular affinity for 1970s exploitation movies, generally the very kind that would play as double features back then. So with “Death Proof,” Tarantino is paying homage to the slasher horror movies that regularly put women in peril, while also providing a revenge fantasy in the film’s third act.
Granted, films such as those cheesy ones from the ‘70s, would never be able to reel in an attractive cast such as the one in “Death Proof,” nor have dialogue as entertaining to hear. One thing that most any viewer of a Tarantino movie can agree with is that the man likes to write dialogue. Most would also say he’s very good at it, too.
Such is the case with “Death Proof,” which if it’s fair to bill the movie as a horror flick, is easily the most talkative one ever filmed. It’s almost two different films in one. The first half follows one group of girls (featuring Rose McGowan, Vanessa Ferlito and Sydney Poitier) as they enjoy a raucous night on the town in Austin, Texas, only to cross paths with a mysterious stranger named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell in a great performance). His vehicle (and subsequently, weapon) of choice is a 1970 Dodge Charger, which he uses to chase down and kill his victims.
The second half picks up 14 months later when Mike comes across a new group of female targets who are in a Tennessee town to film a movie. He begins stalking them, only to realize that these “victims” might not be as powerless and scared as he had hoped.
Eschewing the use of CGI, Tarantino films his car chases, including a wildly intense concluding action sequence, using old-fashioned stuntwork and creative camerawork. These are real cars featuring real people, including stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell (in a standout role) performing some amazing physical feats on the hood of a vehicle.
The movie does meander some in pacing, and Tarantino is maybe a bit too enamored with his dialogue from time to time, but it does deliver some quoteworthy moments, too. Plus, it produces some amazing car crashes and a villain in Stuntman Mike that allows Russell to really get in touch with his emotions. That’s fun to see, and so too is “Death Proof.”
(Unrated, but contains violent content and adult language.)