Ah, Grindhouse. The UK's biggest disappointment of this calendar year, hyped by critics, ignored by idiots. Sorry, Americans. The dream-team of Tarantino and Rodriguez, working together but seperately... how could someone ignore one of the most exciting movie prospects of the past couple of years, all due to a not-particularly-bum-numbing 3 hours? If people can sit through three Rings films, surely they can have a blast watching Grindhouse?
When I found out that Girndhouse was to be split for the UK, I was furious. Surely, I thought to myself, this defeats the whole point of the Grindhouse experience, the entire essence of the film's creation? Why ruin it for us, just because the Americans didn't "get" it? Not only was it loved by critics, but lots of people who did go and see it, loved it. The news came that Tarantino was going to extend Death Proof with footage he wanted in the film originally, before deciding it was too long. I was worried - would this be half the film I was expecting?
The answer is no. The long and short of it is, Death Proof is absolutely brilliant. From the opening shot, once again showcasing Tarantino's foot fetish, to the fantastic close, the film is always incredibly entertaining. At times it's exciting, at times it's sexy, and, as ever with QT, it's effortlessly cool. The whole film is incredibly well directed, deliciously authentic and decidedly witty. It's standard Tarantino dialogue, but that still means it a huge cut above the average, Tracie Thoms especially benefitting from some hilarious comic timing. Some people do not realise that a slight plot and simple plot are not the same thing. Death Proof is definitely the latter, an interesting premise gloriously realised and not over-complicating itself for the sake of it. Kurt Russell is especially good as deranged killer Stuntman Mike, all slashed face and malicious grin. But he's also surprisingly charming, even when it's part of a facade to lull his victims into a false sense of security. To be honest, half the time you can't really blame them.
As previously stated, it's magnificently well made. QT, sometimes praised more for his writing, is such a talented directed that only the blind couldn't see how competently he's made this. Despite the 2-Hour running time [which, to be honest, is mostly talking], there's always something interesting to look at, be it the shots themselves or the various blips, crackles and missing frames used. It's all done to stunning effect - it's so captivating you can't help but feel transported to a different time. I particularly enjoyed the short monochrome section at the start of the film's second half, and the opening warning about it being rated 'R'. One horrific scene, approximately an hour in, is replayed from so many different angles that you feel slightly disorientated from watching it [in a good way].
The film is very much in two halves - two sets of victims, two different cities, two opposing outcomes. In the first we meet minimal big stars, not counting the extended cameos from QT himself and his splatter-buddy Eli Roth, and it's all about the build-up. Some people have complained that there is no build-up, but it's so subtly done that they most likely didn't realise. Each scenario always feels like it's leading somewhere, making it all the more watchable. In the second half, the big names come into play, with a fabulous array of colours illuminating the less-scratchy-flickery screen.
Rosario Dawson is excellent as usual, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is left slightly trailing, but it's Zoe Bell [Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill] that deserves the big mention. Playing herself, she's a great character, and does all of her own [amazing] stunts. The finale is taut and exciting, a real-edge-of-your-seat unpredictable chase before reaching its crowd-pleasing destination. QT's made his own sub-genre by mashing others together [grindhouse, serial killer, stalker, thriller, action] - stalk 'n' smash to hugely entertaining effect.
There are one or two small negatives to that large amount of positives. For starters, it's by no means the "slasher movie at 200 MPH" that Tarantino initially promised. It starts reasonably slowly, like all of QT's films, before steadily gaining more and more digits on its speed-o-meter. Also, the film is really great, but Quentin hasn't really moved on much. I guess he has his own style, but it's not wildly different to what he's done before. He's even re-used the "feature presentation" retro starter that he's used before.
But these are only very slight downers in what is otherwise genuinely one of the best films of the year. It's so well made with so much passion, lots of [interesting and amusing] talk mixed with some of the best car chases I've ever seen. Usually, there isn't somebody on the bonnet... it's so striking you can't ignore it, and it's all the better for its OTT factor. It feels so genuine that now I'm more annoyed about the split than ever before. Bring on Planet Terror.
Genre Value: 4.5/5
Entertainment Value: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5