Monday, 19 May 2008

Death Proof

Ah, Quentin, Quentin. Quenty. Where did it all go wrong?

I think I have the answer.

See, Tarantino has done some good stuff. Reservoir Dogs had great dialogue, even if the story was ripped off wholesale from City On Fire. Pulp Fiction was just 20 minutes away from being possibly the greatest movie of modern times; flabby editing (which should have served as a warning) stops it just short of being perfect.

Jackie Brown was a huge surprise; smart, simple, beautifully acted and low-key. Kill Bill was creative, absurdly so, and largely quite good fun.

I'll always think of From Dusk Till Dawn as being partly a Tarantino movie, largely because of the writing credit, and FDTD has exactly the same problem as Death Proof: indulgence. FDTD sets up perfectly with the robbery of the store, the entrance of the policeman... We understand the brothers, their roles, what they do, one is unhinged etc. So why spend another 50 minutes rehashing the same shite? We know they're bad. The references to sexual violence on their journey do nothing to expand the characters, and it's not even well written. It's just there for the sake of it, and so Tarantino can 'act' in the movie.

Something he is truly fucking crap at, btw.

Same problem in Death Proof; what could take 15 minutes in the hands of a decent editor and a non-indulgent dirtector takes 45 minutes. It's dull. Really, really dull. Meaningless conversations that go nowhere might be just like real life, but this isn't real life. It's a fucking movie. If I want real life dull conversations that go nowhere, I'll go to the fucking pub myself, thanks.

The movie is a supposed homage to 'Grindhouse'. I've spent my life watching movies, reading about them, and even spent a couple of years as editor of one of the biggest DVD magazines in Europe. I do know movies, honestly. But the term 'grindhouse' is a nonsense one. It means nothing, and until this movie and Planet Terror came out, I reckon no fucker on the planet outside Chez Tarantino was using the expression (for the record, the term is used to describe the kind of cinemas these movies played in, apparently, rather than the film. Still sounds like a load of old bollocks to me).

The usual term for that type of movie is exploitation; sometimes people refer to them as 'B-movies' (not exactly accurately), but there are other names. But Grindhouse? Right out of Tarantino's arse, in my opinion. Maybe it's an American thing, but... I have my doubts. If someone out there wants to prove me wrong, fine. Maybe it's a cultural thing.

Aaaaaaanyway, it's not a good homage. It's cutesy, it's clever, but it's not accurate. The kind of movies we're talking about usually had a lot of filler in. And the filler most certainly was not meaningless, shite-boring conversations. Q, if you want to emulate the genre you claim to love so much, where were the pointless shower scenes that take up to seven minutes, where was the pointless softcore lesbianism? That's the filler these movies used, hacked in by producers to bump the running time up, or simply to titillate the drive-in crowd.

I'm just saying.

Okay, the movie concerns Stuntman Mike, some bloke who was a stuntman. He's played by Kurt Russell. He targets some women, and plans to do... something with his car. Something bad, we reckon.

Well, he does it, then his attentions switch to some other women, and he plans to do it again. Only this time, he's picked on the wrong group of women. Oh yes.

It's simple, it gleefully wastes your time with a lot of pointless crap, and honestly, the whole thing could have been perfectly served up in a one-hour movie. Now, a one-hour movie on a double bill actually makes a lot of sense – some 'B's used to be 65, 70 minutes, so it's not unusual. But no, he had to put himself in it, he had to pad it out with some real shite, and he had to make it oh-so-distinctly a Tarantino movie.

Sadly, much as I was looking forward to it, this movie sucked. Best things about it were A) the Planet Terror trailer at the start and B) the fact that, to rid our minds of the suckiness of this, we watched the brilliant This Is England later that night, and it really was superb.


ajooja said...

I just can't make myself watch "Death Proof" or "Planet Terror" on DVD.

I wouldn't have minded "experiencing Grindhouse" in theaters but I just don't want to watch longer versions of bad movies.

I think "Grindhouse" would have been more successful if they had cut each film down to one hour and made it a two-hour show.

People aren't going to sit through a three-hour movie unless it's an epic, Oscar-worthy film.

badgerdaddy said...


I would have loved to see them in cinemas but they were released individually in the UK and Europe, which was really annoying.

I gather in cinemas, the movies were much shorter, which may have made Death Proof watchable.

I also found out today Tarantino always works with the same editor, and she won an Oscar for Pulp Fiction... Those fools.

lotus07 said...

After Kill Bill (Parts 1 & 2) I have sort of sworn of Tarentino. I saw from Dusk till Dawn and Pulp Fiction, and by the time I got around to Kil Bill, it was all starting to get repetitious. He does have a certain gift for writing and dialogue, but his never ending blood and choreographed violence just leaves me numb after a while. He hit his prime with Pulp Fiction and has been on the skids ever since.

B.E. Earl said...

I loved Death Proof...and Grindhouse as a whole.

I'm not as fond of Planet Terror on it's own. I think that Rodriguez sometimes goes too far into making things ridiculous ala the vampires in From Dusk Til Dawn.

But I thought Death Proof worked grandly. It was highly reminiscent of the 70's car chase films while still retaining QT's great characters and dialogue.

Sure the pacing was slow. But that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Hell, I like a long movie as long as it doesn't bore me...and this one didn't.

You may feel differently about it in a few years when you watch it again. Sometimes that happens with QT films. I didn't really enjoy Jackie Brown when I first saw it, but now I love it just as much as you did.

By the way, the "Grindhouse" title was closely tied to the theaters in Times Square in NYC and other major metro areas here in the US. Made perfect sense to me, but I can see where you might not get it.

So lets agree to disagree on this one, ok! ;)

badgerdaddy said...

Earl, have you seen the longer cut of Death Proof that came out over here?

It really didn't remind me of any car chase movies... It was a very, very pale reflection of them, and as for the great characters and dialogue, I must have missed that bit! I honestly thought the first group of women A) hated each other and B) were a total bunch of arseholes with no redeeming qualities at all. Nothing to like, admire or even to engage the viewer. Second bunch of women, a totally different experience.

Nah, this wasn't a full-length movie, it's a short dragged out by an egotist.

Thanks for the info on the Grindhouse 'tag', yes I did indeed miss that.

Okay, okay, I agree that we disagree...

B.E. Earl said...

I've seen both the "Grindhouse" version and the longer cut. I liked them both, but I enjoyed the longer cut more.

limpy99 said...

I must strongly disagree with you. There's no such thing as "pointless softcore lesbianism".

B.E. Earl said...

I'm with limpy on that one. ;)

downtown guy said...

I saw the full Grindhouse double feature with fake previews in the theater here the weekend it came out. My friend and I snuck in a couple cans of beer and had a great time. I fuckin loved both flicks. Sure, there's some filler, but the chase scenes make up for it. By the time Kurt Russell was sobbing and broken, my buddy and I were howling with laughter.

Chalk me up and another who'd heard the term "grindhouse" before these movies, about big city theaters that showed mostly martial arts flicks, slashers, and porn.

badgerdaddy said...

Cheers, downtown. And limpy.

I'm pretty sure I would have loved the double bill, trailers and all. I'm very disappointed not to have seen that.

downtown guy said...

It was the only way to see it, for sure.

I meant to add - I enjoyed This is England, too. Not a whole lot of movies out there with a nuanced take on the skinhead scene.

Renegade Eye said...

I thought Sidney poitier's daughter was really hot.