Death Proof

Death Proof

The Tarantino half of 'Grindhouse' which has been recut - to the chagrin of many - and released on its own, after the double feature performed dismally in the US. (To find out more, read this article).The Rodriguez half, 'Planet Terror', is yet to be given a NZ release date.

'Death Proof' is Tarantino's big expensive homage to 70s, down and dirty exploitation flicks... or as Variety put it, exploitation culture "bites, kicks, slugs, blasts, smashes and cusses its way back to life". The girl power story follows Kurt Russell as a veteran stuntman and psycho Mike, who stalks and kills beautiful women with his car.

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Flicks Review

Forget about the ‘Grindhouse’ experience for a moment, and imagine that Tarantino’s latest adventure exists independently. It doesn’t, and it shows, but just imagine anyway. We get a movie that feels hip but unimportant; entertaining but long-winded. It’s really a great night out in every way except one: the dialogue.

There’s no denying that Death Proof is an enjoyable experience, but the long stretches of chatter where girls talk about everything from their sex lives to some ancient television shows stretch the patience of even the biggest film nerd. And at one point, just before the action revs up for the last time, the inane banter between the women has reached the about-to-walk-out-of-the-cinema type. It’s painful.

Right. Now that’s out of the way, let’s just clarify that the rest of the film is absolutely brilliant. It’s a stylish homage to old cheap films, and comes complete with scratches, missing frames, discolouration and shoddy editing. It’s sort of a gimmick but at least it comes across as something different. In cinematic terms, it’s like an oasis in a desert (I was a bit disappointed that they give up with these tricks after about half-an-hour into the film).

The acting fits the bill. Kurt Russell is one bad-ass psycho. Nearly everyone else is female, and a hot one at that. New Zealand stunt woman Zöe Bell plays herself and not only provides an extremely likeable screen presence, but gets to do a sweet bit of bonnet-riding as well.

The script is patchy. The story feels pretty thin, and structurally it feels odd since it’s basically split into two halves. Styling a film as a cheap grindhouse flick leaves little option, really. You get the visual look, but you also get the tacky half-baked tale that goes with it. Anyway, the soundtrack is terrific, and the production design is excellent (The film’s set in 2007 but it looks like 1977).

The final car chase was one old-school action scene that had everyone cheering. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old car vs. car in the American mid-west, and it makes one hell of a welcome return to our screens.

Like him or leave him, the best thing about Tarantino’s films is that they don’t pull punches. If the dialogue goes on and on, he doesn’t care. He’ll even shoot it in one continuous take where the camera glides around the table. He’ll put in a lap dance scene for three minutes. He’ll repeat a car crash four times to show what happens to each passenger (It ain’t pretty). He’ll do what he wants; f*ck you if you don’t like it. It’s ironic to think that a film based on such clichés ends up so refreshingly different, but Tarantino has crafted something with guts. For that reason alone, Death Proof is great.

The Peoples' Reviews

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Oh i had a laugh at this one. Clever, action packed, funny and with stunts, kiwis and ass kickin' ladies, what more could you want. While playing about with the grindhuse genre Tarantino has hit the cinematic nail on the head.

There's no guiltier pleasure than the indulgent excesses of director Quentin Tarantino's recent output; leaving the cinema dizzy after Kill Bill, it occured to me that he may have had something to "get out of his system", an exploitation-movie fever that had to be allowed to run it's natural course before he could go back to being the same critical darling who'd snagged himself an oscar with only his second film. Nah. Death Proof continues in the same vien as Kill Bill, with schlocky B-movie... More conventions reverently plucked from the tree and then pureed (with the utmost geeky-love) into a smoothie that has a recognisable, yet altogether fresh, taste and kick to it.

Forget pimping his ride, Stuntman Mike has had his death-proofed: he can slam his black Charger it into a brick wall at 125mph and walk away unhurt. He's a thrill-seeker. And a thrill-killer. Working from the familiar cliche about how a guy's car is an extension of his manhood, scarred, bitter, middle-aged Mike likes using his auto to wipe out sexy young women he'd never stand a chance in hell of scoring with. Disgusted? Go ahead. This is grindhouse. If you can't get over yourself and enjoy being a little down-and-dirty, this is the wrong movie for you.

With it's deliberately ragged editing and film-stock degradation (including a soundtrack that is not always perfectly synced), Death Proof certainly looks the part of a forgotten '70s opus: part car chase flick, part slasher movie, and part liberated-girls-gone-wild sleazefest, the material lives up to it's end of the bargain too. Tarantino's trademark banter, colourful characters, and unusual narrative structure are all here, only... cheaper. The conversations, crass as they maybe, are absorbing; the people, however hyper-real they maybe, are entertaining; the plot, however lurid it's intentions maybe, is compelling. See, Tarantino understands exactly what it is that an audience gets out of this kinda crap, and knows how to deliver the goods. It's not in spite of it's trashiness that Death Proof works - on the contrary, it's because of how sincerely and accurately it aims for trashiness that it scores. Plus the soundtrack is typically kick-ass and - how could I forget? - Zoe Bell does every kiwi proud playing her tough-talking, hard-as-nails self (at least as QT envisioned her).

It'll probably be appreciated most by people who remember (with dorky nostalgia) renting crude stuff like this on VHS tape from some bargain bin at the back of the video store. Like I do. It's not high art, but it's certainly high-something.Hide

BY Ken-Burns superstar

not that that is bad. Great soundtrack and action sequences. Zoe Bell is fantastic especially in the Kiwi/Aussie bit at the bar and her on camera stunts. First half slightly flat but the second half much better. Some bits felt like a female Reservoir Dogs which made it very watchable all round

And kicking!
You just gotta love this.
The movie formula turned on its arse, plotless and devoted to mesmerising scenes and quirky characters that fill the screen and have you riveted so that you don't care about the lack of plot, I mean thats the whole point, who needs a plot when theres so much fun to be had???

Good, but Tarantino has lost his touch. He's no longer cool it's official. The dialogue fell flat alot of the time, and none of it was funny at all. The films first half is about one group of girls, the second about another... first group interesting, second group not so interesting.

Having said that, the action scenes are awesome. Zoe Bell on the car bonnet was very excellent. In these scenes Tarantino still shines.

It's still far better than 90% of anything on at movies, and worth... More seeing, but a dip in QT's quality control.Hide

The Press Reviews

67% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    The shift between stories is as sudden as the ending - no doubt in tribute to Tarantino's beloved cheap "grindhouse" features, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow. There's plenty of fun to be had with Death Proof, but its imitation of a defunct, low-budget style of movie-making is perhaps too accurate when it comes to the genre's flaws... Full Review

  • Seriously entertaining American filmmaking and definitely not the half-serious pastiche it could easily have been. No seatbelt, no airbag, no nuthin’ — just Tarantino driving wildly under the influence... Full Review

  • Similarly at odds with the exploitation double-bill, Death Proof defiantly – even unconsciously – stands alone, and however self-aggrandising, contains some smashing moments, builds to a considerable fck yeah, and works even better on its own terms... Full Review

  • <em>Death Proof</em> is certainly entertaining, but it's also baffling and will have you wondering what the point of it all is. Full Review

  • Sure, it's full of injokes, self-indulgent references (why would two modern girls love Vanishing Point?) and self-referential indulgences (Red Apple cigarettes and Earl McGraw turn up) and Tarantino-isms abound (listen for familiar ringtones, and irrelevant, meandering conversations), but it's a hell of a lot of fun and strangely empowering. While attempting to replicate the gloriously bad movies of his youth, Tarantino couldn't help himself. He went and made a good film... Full Review