Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Death Proof (2007) Review

Tarantino's Death Proof poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month! 

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson
Genre: Action, Thriller, Exploitation

One half of the Rodriquez-Tarantino double-feature, Grindhouse. The other half being Rodriquez's Planet Terror. Tarantino has been quoted saying that this is the worst film he's ever made. Well, it sure ain't that bad for his worst.

The premise is simple. There's a guy named Stuntman Mike (Russell) and he likes to crash his "death proof" car into cars that are driven by beautiful women and, in some cases, kill them. It's essentially a slasher plot.

This film was intentionally made to resemble the '70s grindhouse B-movies, both in plot and in style. In that sense the film is successful. Intentional damage was done to the film to achieve the worn look of many exploitation films and there's numerous jump-cuts and audio cut-outs that all add to the film's great style.

The film has its slower talky moments and it also has its contrasting action scenes.

The action scenes are great. Zoe Bell (who also has a large role in the film) served as the main stunt performer. [Fun fact: Zoe Bell was also Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill.] The car scenes are great and this film has one of the coolest chase scenes you'll ever see. The first crash scene is awesomely detailed and replayed from numerous angles. There could have been a lot more action though. It's nearly a two hour film and the action goes like this: short (but awesome) car crash in the first half of the film, girl driving around on the hood of a car for a few minutes in the second half of the film, great chase scene in the last ten minutes of the film. So most of the film is without action, which wouldn't usually be a problem except...

Mary Elizabeth Winstead Death Proof

...The slow scenes in Death Proof pretty much suck. Well, maybe that's not completely fair. Much of the first half of the film was very enjoyable (with the first batch of girls). The first half also had better characters (in my opinion, though most of the characters were pretty awful) and features one of the greatest lap-dance scenes ever put to film. So the first half, in the bar, was pretty good. But Tarantino, a man known for his dialogue and skill in crafting slow long-take scenes, really failed to bring great dialogue or scenes. The scene where those four girls are in a diner eating (the camera spinning around the table like in Reservoir Dogs) is one of the worst scenes I've ever watched (I will admit there was one cool line: "You know what happens to motherfuckers who carry knives? They get shot!").

Jungle Julie Death Proof

Allow me to make one thing clear: nearly every scene with Kurt Russell is five star material. He's great in here and he really carries the film. His dialogue is very well written and him as a character is very interesting. Unfortunately there's not much of Russell in here. He really only appears during the action scenes. I also didn't like how he became a whiny bitch in the second half, but whatever.

Death Proof lap dance

So the dialogue goes like this: In the first half it's pretty good (though far from Tarantino's best), in the second half it's sometimes decent but mostly mediocre, and anything that comes out of Kurt Russell's mouth is gold.

I definitely liked the first half better than the second half. The only good part in the second half is the action scenes towards the end. I didn't really have a problem with the ending, it was okay.

Kurt Russell smile Death Proof

The cast here is pretty great as are the performances. Obviously Kurt Russell steals the show. Rose McGowan has a nice small role (who was also in Planet Terror and whom I have had a cinematic crush on ever since The Doom Generation). Eli Roth makes a cameo, who I don't mind at all as a person but I just for some reason really hate his face and acting. Zoe Bell, who isn't an actress, did a surprisingly good performance. There's plenty of beautiful girls in here (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Jordan Ladd). I should also note that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is at her prettiest in here. Quentin himself also makes a cameo.

The soundtrack is awesome, none of it original. My favorite track being April March's "Chick Habit" which plays during the end credits.

Rose McGowan and Kurt Russell in Death Proof

Watch Death Proof if you're a fan of exploitation or a fan of Tarantino or Kurt Russell. You'll definitely enjoy it. There was some missed opportunity and some things were just surprisingly mediocre, but all in all not a bad film.

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Death Proof on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream

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