I went to see Grindhouse this weekend. It's the new double feature by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Loved it! Loved it. I can't recall the last time I had so much fun in a movie. And considering that it clocks in at over 3 hours, it's no small feat to get me to sit still that long, let alone not get antsy and annoyed. But I never did. The fake trailers between the flicks were pretty cool in their own right, even if the one called "Thanksgiving" flashed a few visuals about poultry violation that make Nine Inch Nails videos seem downright sane by comparison. (I want to know -- did they get the idea from the Studio 60 joke about Quentin Tarantino's Thanksgiving sketch? If so, they took it to a whole new, disgusting level.)
Anyhow, I'm sure you can read full reviews all over the place, so I won't bother with a full wrap-up. But I will say that I walked out of the theater SHOCKED after reading some (very positive) reviews. Most reviewers are touting Rodriguez's movie, "Planet Terror" and saying that Tarantino's "Death Proof" is more of a send-up of the grindhouse format. Now, don't get me wrong, I liked Rodriguez's movie, and it echoed back to his "From Dusk Till Dawn" monster days. He managed to mine the brotherly love angle again, only more successfully with this film, and even tossed in a nice romantic angle. And it was, without question, the more "grindhousey" of the two.
But, uh, is that really a compliment?
Tarantino's "Death Proof" is exactly what Tarantino does best. Not "send up" a genre, but take the very best elements of it and elevate them and turn it inside out. It's got all his token touches with quirky dialogue, an excellent cast, and violence that comes in jarring punches. I read a couple of reviews that claimed he was indulgent with the dialogue in this one and even though they know that he's a very deliberate filmmaker, they couldn't figure out why he included some of it. And by the time it was over, I thought those reviewers were flat out morons. I know teenagers don't really dig Tarantino (or Scorsese) because it's too much talky and not enough shooty. And it makes me sad that we've created an entire generation that thinks Tarantino and Scorsese flicks aren't violent or action-packed enough.
That said, there is a lot of dialogue, but it all pays dividends. And the action? I don't think it's spoiling the flick to say it's a driving movie, and it includes what is without question the greatest chase scene ever filmed. It knows its roots, from "Vanishing Point" and "Bullitt" and "Duel" and plenty of others. One of the most amazing things about the flick is that there's no CGI used. YAY! There's never really been all that adrenaline-inducing to me about watching pixels get blown up or chased around. There's no real risk involved.
And the risk in this movie is bitch-slapped by Zoe Bell.
Zoe was a stuntwoman on "Kill Bill" and she ended up breaking several bones in her back while filming a scene, but finished the last week of filming anyhow before getting surgery. Tarantino invests in her badass appeal by casting her as herself in "Death Proof" and holy shit does it pay dividends. Not only is she completely charming and unaffected as an actress, but she'll make you clutch your Diet Coke a whole lot harder when she's doing her thing.
Remember how much everyone loved Travolta after his "Pulp Fiction" turn? "Death Proof" gives us Kurt Russell. He's at once undeniably charming, deviously menacing -- and then, something else entirely that'd wreck the flick if I told you about it. But believe it -- he had the whole theater cracking up while simultaneously squirming.
No one does uncomfortable humor like Quentin. And I know "Kill Bill" brought on an onslaught of misogynist charges against him. I admit it, I didn't get it. I know the scene they're talking about, but did people see the whole movie? This time around, in "Grindhouse," it's Rodriguez's turn to enter a gross-out scene with questionable, misogynistic slantings -- but it's Quentin starring in the scene causing the discomfort. To people who actually interpret the scene that way though? Lighten up, Francis. And, grow a fucking brain, because you really don't get it.
Grindhouse movies routinely exploited women. And these two flicks are rife with all the grindhouse stereotypes -- and yet they're reinvented. Not subverted, but outright reversed. Some dumb clucks might question the abundance of dialogue and miss the meanings of it, but I don't think anyone can walk out denying that the women in these flicks kicked serious ass, and it was a whole, glorious mess of real, fast, fun watching them do it.
Double applause to Rodriguez and Tarantino.