Death Proof

2008-03-31 13:59
What it's about:

Austin's top DJ, the sultry "Jungle Julia" (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), is out on the town with her best buddies Shanna and Arlene (Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito). What they don't realise is that they're being stalked by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a deranged killer whose weapon of choice is his vintage muscle car.

What we thought of it:

There's something almost quaint about Quentin Tarantino's latest effort. It's a good decade and a half since he shot to stardom with Pulp Fiction, and yet he's still peddling the same pseudo-ironic self-referential shtick, as though the 90s never ended. In fact, Death Proof could almost be a parody of his style, displaying all his usual trademarks at their most extreme.

Originally conceived as part of an ersatz double bill named Grindhouse, Death Proof is intended as a homage to the low budget exploitation films of the 70s and the cinemas that showed them (the "grindhouses"). The other portion, a campy zombie flick named Planet Terror (by all reports a better film), was directed by maverick auteur Robert Rodriguez, a long time compadre of Tarantino's. The pair even commissioned promising young directors to make fake trailers for the "intermission".

After this three hour experiment failed to make waves at the US box offices, the worldwide distributors decided to split up the films into more manageable chunks and bulked each of them out into two hour features. Whether this destroyed the artistic merit of the project is debatable, but I'm pretty sure Tarantino's half of the deal wouldn't be any more inspiring simply because it was snuggling self-consciously with a zombie movie. We'll have to wait for the DVD to be sure though.

Marketing stunts aside, Death Proof may be Tarantino's emptiest and most self-indulgent film to date. It's full of all his usual quirks: the winks and nudges to every film he's ever seen; the snappy, sarcastic dialogue that turns every character into Quentin and; of course, the sudden bursts of ultra-violence.

It's also a crunchy mouthful of the exploitation cinema that he and Rodriguez spent their childhood's absorbed in. With its muscle cars, big breasted beauties and retro soundtrack, the film captures some of the delicious, uninhibited sinfulness that made 70s cinema so vital. And, however annoying he may be, Tarantino's powers of storytelling and his deft touch with camera and pacing make the film at the very least watchable, if not memorable.

That said, few people except hardcore Tarantino fans will walk away from Death Proof feeling satisfied. For all its visceral appeal, the film still feels staged and manicured, like an exhibit in a museum of trash culture. As soon as you start to really enjoy it, there's Quentin, nudging you in the ribs asking "Did ya get that reference? Did ya?" And that's always been the thing about Tarantino – he's obsessed with paying homage to his influences but somehow always ends up paying homage to himself.

- Alistair Fairweather
Quentin Tarantino's latest slice of sarcastic ultra-violence plays like a parody of his own style. Someone tell this guy the 90s are over.

lexx 2008/02/19 7:23 AM
lets just do what everyone else does so we dont feel alone? I'm not gonna lie to you ... i am a junkie! movies, tv, damn well anything with moving pictures rock. And of all the directors making movies out there Tarantino and Rodriques are two of the best, two of the best at being original, slightly mad but completely about making movies. Not and i will repeat myself; not bending to the hollywood formula .ITo anyone who is going to watch this movie please watch the double feature. As a stand alone movie, deathproof is a little weak; but then again it was never designed to be a standalone. Also as a viewer you will miss the trailers inbetween and that is a great loss to anyone who is tired of the britney, justin timberlake farce that is sweeping the world. Stand up to the pop munchers that hate anything different ... this doublefeature rocks and rocks hard but only if you have spent your days trying to see the common world for what it is ... boring!
Irene 2008/02/19 9:10 AM
Tarantino Rocks!!! Have followed his career from the beginning - brilliant, non-formulaic (in the accepted blockbuster style), in-your-face movies. Indeed a homage to low budget 70's movies... done in the one & only Quentin style. And a fitting homage, as i have seen many 70's movies - he achieved his goal. Obviously cannot be appreciated by the "pop-munchers". All directors/producers pay homage to themselves... thats the vanity of Hollywood and movie-making. Just because you dont enjoy the genre of violent cult movies, dont diss them. There are many fans out there. I think your review sucked, Alistair. I enjoyed these movies immensely.
Stuntman Mike 2008/02/19 11:27 AM
Underappreciated, Misunderstood. Lexx: "Death Proof" was always intended to work as a standalone film. Tarantino and Rodriguez made it abundantly clear in their many interviews leading up to the release of "Grindhouse" stateside (i.e., before it flopped) that the two films were going to be released separately on DVD. Whether or not they work as individual entities is a matter of opinion. It would be preferable to view the films within the "Grindhouse" context, and with an appreciative audience, but I've seen both of them separately and they work just as well (in my opinion). As for Mr. Fairweather's embarrassingly misguided, uninformed review -- anyone with an Internet connection and 5 minutes to spare will quickly discover that "Planet Terror" is most certainly not the better of the two "by all reports" -- it's obvious that he's found a comfortable spot on the anti-Tarantino bandwagon. Little attempt has been made to understand, let alone appreciate, what Tarantino's doing here, and I fully expect most other local c
Stuntman Mike 2008/02/19 11:29 AM
Underappreciated, Misunderstood. Take 2. [Word limit cut my previous post off, so here's the rest:] Little attempt has been made to understand, let alone appreciate, what Tarantino's doing here, and I fully expect most other local critics to follow suit. This is the worst kind of lazy criticism.
Alistair 2008/02/19 12:18 PM
Is that so "Stuntman Mike"? Let's look at Rotten Tomatoes: 71% for Planet Terror and 56% for Death Proof Or how about IMDB: 7.8 out of 10 for Planet Terror and 7.4 out of 10 for Death Proof. So, in 3 minutes I figured out that both the critics and the fans prefer Planet Terror. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Pieter 2008/02/19 1:02 PM
Government I personally believe... that... uhm... most Americans can't find themselves on a map, because like such as, the Iraq and South Africa... because they don't have maps. The government should dot their I's and cross their T's. I loved this move though. I am looking forward to seeing it for the first time tonight.
Stuntman Mike 2008/02/19 1:23 PM
It is so. No, Alistair, what's sloppy is your inability to write clearly. I was arguing against your theory that ALL reports (which defines both a group and the individual -- look it up) were in favour of "Planet Terror." You've only cited two, and they're both a group assessment. But judging it according to your myopic definition of the word report, yes, the general consensus is that "Planet Terror" is the better of the two (as far as RT and the IMBb are concerned, at any rate). Within film buff circles, however, that's most certainly not the case.
Alistair 2008/02/19 2:27 PM
Maybe you should chill, Mike The phrase "by all reports" is not meant to be taken literally, and your myopic insistence on doing so speaks of a deep seated need to attack me with whatever ammunition you can lay your hands on. So what if we disagree, that's the point of criticism. For you to label me lazy and embarrassingly misguided, simply because I hold a different opinion to yours says far more about you than it does about either me or the film. And I love how you speak about "film buff circles" - as though you are the representative of all things cinematic. Get over yourself.
Stuntman Mike 2008/02/19 3:15 PM
Whoops! Not to be taken literally? So what is it to be taken as? Are we supposed to assume that you're referring to the general consensus at RT and the IMDb? Those are clearly your only points of reference. And at no point did I directly include myself in the aforementioned "film buff circle" (even though I would). I merely observed that film buffs (i.e., people who are sufficiently passionate about films to take more than a superficial interest in what they're up to) prefer "Death Proof" in general. It's interesting that you respond to what you perceive as a deliberate misreading of your review with something that could be regarded just the same. And in a cantankerous manner that suggests a hefty dose of Chill Pills are in order. Anyway, let's agree to disagree on this one; it's worth discussing but not bickering over. I concede that I wasn't much help in that regard; my description of your review as being "embarrassingly misguided" was a little on the extreme side, and for that I apologise.
MAKE SOME NOISE 2008/02/19 3:20 PM
Kgabong 2008/02/19 4:00 PM
Review takes long to get to the point I could simply say that planet terror is for blood seeking fans and Death Proof is a movie for Laid back peaple who love long conversations of hot chicks. sorry ladies, no hot guys in this movie.
Franz 2008/02/19 8:32 PM
Mike's argument I'm afraid that Mike is right. The phrase "by all reports" (or "according to all accounts" or "from all reports available" etc.) is more literal than you think. I can understand him taking umbrage with your statement, if what he claims is true and there are some critics/groups out there that prefer this movie (and I'm sure there are). Personally, this doesn't sound like my cup of tea, although I did enjoy Tarantino's Jackie Brown.
Blackhalo 2008/02/19 9:30 PM
I've seen better Being a huge Tarantino and Rodriguez fan (especially when they work together, gotta love From Dusk Till Dawn), I was obviously giddy when i first heard about Grindhouse. I got my hands on it as soon as possible and laid back for a long evening of cheesy B-grade homage! Sadly, Deathproof is not Tarantino's best work. As Alistair says, it feels staged and fake most of the time. The fact that the exact same storyline is repeated twice in the film doesn't help either. It got boring after a while. Not even a spectacular crash scene could really save the movie. After Kill Bill, this was somewhat of a disappointment. Planet Terror, on the other hand, was one of the best B-grade horror movies I've ever experienced. Absurd, over the top, gory, cheesy and downright silly at times, but that's what makes it so damn good! Get your hands on the latter rather, much better entertainment. We'll just have to wait for 'Inglorious Bastards' to see if Tarantino returns to his old self.
Vernon Wolf 2008/02/21 5:17 PM
Daft Proof That is what you have to be, when reading any of Alistair's reviews... It seems to me as if the only thing Mr. Fairweather ever gets excited about is animation and dinner with his mommy. The genre of Tarantino does not need your approval, thank god.
dustin 2008/02/27 1:19 PM
bad movie Blackhalo is spot on, as is the Alistair; the movie stunk and goes no-where, even though you want to!
dustin 2008/02/27 1:20 PM
huh? HOW COULD YOU GIVE IT 3 STARS??? (i'm a tarantino fan)
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