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  Publicity Stills of "Death Proof"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Action/Thriller
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Marley Shelton, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Bacall, Eli Roth, Omar Doom
RunTime: 1 hr 54 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: M18
Official Website: http://www.grindhousemovie.net/

Opening Day: 21 June 2007

Synopsis :

For Austin’s hottest DJ, Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), dusk offers an opportunity to unwind with two of her closest friends, Shanna and Arlene (Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito). This three fox posse sets out into the night, turning heads from Guero’s to the Texas Chili Parlor. Not all of the attention is innocent: Covertly tracking their moves is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a scarred, weathered rebel who leers from behind the wheel of his muscle car. As the girls settle into their beers, Mike’s weapon, a white-hot juggernaut, revs just feet away…

Movie Review:

As if the Hollywood machine and its swelling budgets needed any more directors to help celebrate its arrested development and self-satisfied ostentation, two of its biggest perpetuators in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joined up in a mega production called “Grindhouse”, a double feature that included Tarantino’s “Death Proof” and Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”, with each film envisaged as contemporary variations of the 70s genre – grind-house, a culmination of horror, sex, gore and cheap thrills that piled on as much as it could in its abbreviated runtimes that all stemmed from the misunderstood school of exploitation cinema.

Now, from a prima facie viewpoint, there is something fundamentally ridiculous and witless about spending close to a US$100 million on a film style that was supposed to be cheap, guerilla filmmaking. But with Tarantino’s and his leading stylistic impressionist on board, it ended up becoming a “if you got clout, flout it” sort of enterprise.

With the onus squarely set on the duo, much was being made of the ambitiously puerile simulation of a genre borne out of contempt for Hollywood’s status quo. So even while the possibilities attracted a great deal of fanfare before the film’s opening, and when push came to shove, “Grindhouse” failed at the box-office with studio executives citing the extended runtime and debated whether audiences were apparently “ready” for such a project, all backtracking with tails between their legs it has to be said. Fortunately for the studio, its misfortune was limited to its domestic prospect and a decision was publicly made to release each film separately with additional footage. And so we have “Death Proof”, Tarantino’s killer-on-the-prowl pseudo-homage to the muscle car road ragers from the 70s.

Referential, post-modern filmmaking while becoming a patronising fanboy director’s crutch, has been handed another layer of conceit by Tarantino who is arguably the most established trendsetter in this particular area of creating exaggerated pop-culture universes, a trait that hit its creative peak in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” with a celebratory pastiche of high art and just as easily hit its nadir in “Kill Bill: Volume 2” when it started to annotate its own artistic debts by stretching for self-reflexive intelligence.

In his truest follow-up in “Death Proof” (marketing karma perhaps after the painful splitting of “Kill Bill”), he carelessly flirts with the sweet spot just between silly hyperbolic kitsch and an essential recreation of the genre’s milieu and irreverence. There’s a certain symmetry to the chaos that Tarantino whips up with his palette pointedly set on deconstructing the genre from within that at times recalls his best work and also his worst, which possibly derives from the inevitable indecision of presenting a grandiose homage or a modernised renovation of his frisson soaked inspiration.

From an intellectual standpoint, “Death Proof” attains its grind-house stripes. Being visually confident enough to stage some balls-to-the-walls stunts and setpieces that never really sustains itself, it has an aesthetically opulent style that keeps the screen constantly busy. Ultimately, it offers up some entertaining schlock (and considering its budget and pedigree, I’d expect nothing less) that lacks any durable depth. But from an instinctive point of view, “Death Proof” is much too slick and polished and contradictory to recreate the sort of anti-establishment impertinence its predecessors professed by simply existing to get the piece of the pie, no matter how small.

What Tarantino achieves on his own when he does not simply amalgamate the tropes he’s come to love is his distinctive style of dialogue that holds no pretenses and is always direct to the point with a purpose of building his characters (especially gorgeous cardboard cut-out femmes who he expects us not to take seriously at first glance) with an “action speaks louder than words” ethos. This is an important aspect to discern because it makes this film less a straight up homage and more like a Tarantino grind-house lovefest, even to the point of showing congenial originality and a personal touch despite its many throwaway resemblances to films of yore.

But above all the thematic gambits, Tarantino’s bull’s eye as a director was to not wrangle in Kurt Russell’s emphatic performance as Stuntman Mike, a psychotic boogeyman in an indestructibly menacing muscle car whose cat-and-mouse games continue on with Tarantino’s harem of Midwest beauties. Russell does leave a lasting impression for many reasons, and is on the level of Uma Thurman’s turn as The Bride in “Kill Bill” so it’s just unfortunate there’s not too much else to get excited about when it’s just not invested enough for a truly memorable revision of cult cinema.

Movie Rating:

(At times self-indulgent and inconsistent but ultimately trashy fun)

Review by Justin Deimen


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