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.