' Cinema Romantico: Death Proof

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Death Proof

I missed out on viewing the huge event back in April that was Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's ode to the "Grindhouse" when they released a 3 hour plus movie that was actually two movies (Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" and Tarantino's "Death Proof") complete with fake trailers in the middle. Make no mistake, I wanted to see it but as things are in Cinema Romantico's world, with so many movies to see, if I don't catch something within the first couple of weeks, I don't see it until video.

I have now seen "Death Proof", though not "Planet Terror" as it will not be released on DVD until next month, and so I'm afraid I didn't view it in exactly the way it was intended (on the big screen and back-to-back), and I also saw it with added material not in the theatrical release. But being a Tarantino devotee I feel a need to weigh in.

"Death Proof" is pure Q.T. Long, explicit passages of dialogue. Pop music used in brilliant ways. Pop culture up the wazoo.

As it opens we are introduced to three women who are headed for a night out on the town. Once they have arrived at their destination, we are then introduced to Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who is quite literally inhaling nachos at the bar. Stuntman Mike agrees to give another girl at the bar a ride home and once he does, we learn just why the movie is entitled "Death Proof". And once he's done with her, he sets off in search of the other three girls to whom we have been introduced.

We then flash forward 14 months and Stuntman Mike is at it again, this time in Tennessee. Four more girls - two are actresses, two are stuntwomen - and Zoe, a New Zealander in America for the first time, yearns to check out a white Dodge Challenger for sale and give it a "test" spin. How Stuntman Mike factors into this, well, you can probably figure out on your own, but I'll simply say it's all rather thrilling and worth a rental.

Tarantino has, up until this point, been a master of structure. Everyone knows about his playing with time in "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" and my personal favorite was his audacious move of placing the most exhilirating passage of the "Kill Bill" movies (i.e. The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves) at the middle, but the structure of "Death Proof" just didn't work for me. It's two acts but the second act is really just a retread of the first act, except with different characters. And a lot of the dialogue just goes on far too long.

The Tarantino-speak (a la: Mamet-speak) at the start of the film between the three girls is some of the weakest Tarantino has produced to this point in his career. I did like Stuntman Mike's dissertation on the phrase "in my book" and some of the dialogue in the second act is better, though I'm not sure if that was because of the words themselves or because the actresses sold it with their conviction (Tracie Thomas's Kim may very well be the daughter of Jules Winfield).

Unquestionably, this is just Tarantino indulging himself. I mean, that's the word to sum up "Death Proof" - indulgent. And that's okay. I think he's earned that right for one movie at least.

I heard talk last week of Tarantino's next movie being in the adult/erotica vain, but for years there has also been talk of him doing a WWII movie called "Inglorious Bastards" (think "The Dirty Dozen"). And IMDB.com advises it currently has a release date of 2008, though not much other info. I hope that's the one he makes. And I hope he's a lot more focused.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

Having seen both versions, I can tell you that the "Grindhouse" version was more economical with the dialog. The 2nd half was still a retread of the first, but there was no scene outside of the gas station, the lapdance scene was cut, and the crap about the characters going out to the car to make out was gone, too.