Monday, December 10, 2012

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Review

From Dusk Till Dawn poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Robert Rodriquez
Stars: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis
Genre: Action, Crime, Comedy, Horror

From Dusk Till Dawn is pretty much a precursor to Rodriquez and Tarantino's later collaboration, Grindhouse. It has that same grindhouse, exploitation feel.

I will say, if you haven't seen this film and don't know much about it, just watch it before you read this review. I won't give any major spoilers but it's ten times better if you go into it not knowing what to expect.

The first half of the film is about two brothers, Seth (Clooney) and Richie (Tarantino), who rob a bank and are on the run from the law. They then hold a family hostage and force them to drive them across the border and into Mexico. However, once in Mexico, things turn a little...crazy, to say the least.

Tarantino wrote the screenplay (he actually wrote it before he even made Reservoir Dogs) and it definitely shows. Tarantino dialogue and references are very present and noticeable in the film. The first half of the film (pre-vampires) feels very much like something you'd expect from Tarantino.

Tarantino has a fairly large role in here as Seth's brother Richie. He does a great job and does a justifiable performance for a great character. Tarantino may not be as good an actor as he is writer or director, but he really doesn't get the credit he deserves when it comes to his roles.

Robert Rodriquez directed and he does a good job also. You can definitely see the difference between Tarantino's directing and Rodriquez's; Rodriquez has faster shots and more cuts and camera movement as opposed to a Tarantino directed film.

Juliette Lewis and Quentin Tarantino in From Dusk Till Dawn

Nearly all the characters, in one way or another, go against typecast.

George Clooney plays a hardened criminal. He delivers a greatly believable and charming performance. His character, Seth, is extremely well written. He's such a complex character. We know that he's a selfish character that has done awful things, but in comparison to his brother we can see that he does hold morals and ethics, though he lacks, or rather fails to understand, empathy. It also hints that he places guilt on himself for his brother being psychotic, manic and delusional.

George Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn

Harvey Keitel goes completely against typecast and plays a former preacher and family man. He is enjoyable to watch as always. 

Juliette Lewis, who was largely featured in sexual roles, plays an innocent (albeit not completely) daughter of a preacher. She does great in here and by the end of the film you really feel that she went through changes and has matured. Indeed almost all the characters come to certain revelations throughout the film, something that I think mostly goes uncredited to the film by its critics.

Juliette Lewis toilet From Dusk Till Dawn

There's some really cool cameos in here as well. From the beautiful Salma Hayek to Cheech Marin (who actually plays three roles in here) to Danny Trejo to special effects guru Tom Savini to badass Fred "The Hammer" Williamson to Michael Parks to John Saxon. All faces that will be recognized by common movie-goers.

Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn
Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn

Whereas the first part of the film is a sort of crime thriller/buddy road film, the latter part is an action horror, with comedy present throughout both parts. The script was actually originally written to show off the effects of a certain production company. Well, the effects aren't anything special. The vampires look pretty silly and the melting and fire effects look incredibly fake. The transformation effects vary from pretty good to bad. This, though possibly disliked initially, is eventually forgotten once the action picks up and you really just stop caring how stupid everything looks and you just enjoy the ride. It is a film about the survivors, not the vampires. But perhaps while Tom Savini was shooting his cameo they should have asked him for a few pointers.

Tom Savini vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn
Danny Trejo vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn

As a horror film it's pretty mediocre. Once the vampires come the movie's over after a fight scene or two and it all just happens too fast. There's no sense of terror, entrapment, claustrophobia, or anything like that, though there were numerous opportunities to incorporate them. But I don't really look at this as a horror film, and if I did I'd hate it. I look at it as a grindhouse-esque crime thriller and ultimately the story of two criminals and a hostage family.

Salma Hayek From Dusk Till Dawn dance

The opening scene and the beginning of the film are awesome, the vampire part (though a major shift in style and genre) is still pretty awesome, and even the ending is good. It's worth the watch. 

4/5 stars

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