mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Death Proof (2007)

"You redneck, lunatic bastard!"

Death Proof is yet another tribute to grindhouse cinema from Quentin Tarantino this one however, also is a tribute to the car movies and TV shows from the 70s (you know, the kind that are pretty much completely non-existent these days). This film was released as part of Grindhouse (2007) in US theaters following Robert Rodriguez's zombie film Planet Terror.

Let me start this review by stating right off that there's going to be spoilers with this one, I can't really talk about the film without revealing things that happen that are supposed to be somewhat of a surprise so once again if you want the full first time experience of Death Proof stop reading now, and go rent the film. Death Proof is about Stuntman Mike a sadistic former stuntman who gets his jollies by killing women in cars at fast speeds.

[This review will focus on the 114 minute, theatrical cut of the film]

Turns out Eli Roth makes a very convincing creeper. Hmmm.

One major thing that doesn't work in this film for me is the structure. I applaud Tarantino for trying to make different films and always push the boundaries on how a story or a film can be told, but there's a good reason why everyone uses the three-act structure... because it works. This film is a two-act story (you know like a play?) and I don't think this is inherently the only problem with the film, I think that this may have worked if we didn't spend so much time trying to get to know these characters and then kill them all off at the halfway point. Yes the only character who carries over in the two parts is Stuntman Mike, the antagonist. While this is interesting and a nice thing to try, I just don't think it's successful. I really think he's trying to do too much with it: not only is he trying to split the film right down the middle between a "successful kill" for Stuntman Mike and an {everything goes wrong kill" for Stuntman Mike, but he's also trying to surprise you with the fact that he kills the protagonists at the halfway point. While yes, this worked in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), I'm sorry you did not emulate it well.

The other major problem with this film is the transparency of the writing. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Tarantino films, and an even bigger fan of his writing and dialogue. This film however, did not do it for me. This film found the line of how much "Tarantino talk" I can really take, because frankly the first half is actually just pretty damn boring. The majority of the first half is four girls talking about (as far as the story is concerned) pointless stuff. AND they all sound like Tarantino [something I had had a problem with the way Alabama spoke in True Romance (1993)]. I just don't think that Tarantino must have many female friends because I don't know any females who talk like the girls in this film. The part where they're talking about how far one of them has gone with her boyfriend is especially cringe worthy, and awkwardly written and there's this extra long take of this film is circling a table with them all talking, that honestly I could have completely done without. It drags on for WAY too long, and there is next to nothing important gained from this conversation but yet it stayed in the film for the director's flair. This is a classic example of a director not knowing how to cut his own fat.

Oh and atrocious Quentin Tarantino cameo alert! Dude seriously, stop giving yourself speaking roles.

One good thing about this film is the Stuntman Mike character played by Kurt Russell. I had no idea that Kurt Russell could be SO creepy. His character is very well reasoned, he's interesting and also somewhat strangely funny. My only problem with Stuntman Mike is that Kurt Russell plays it almost exactly like Bill from Kill Bill (2004). I don't know if this is just the way it's written or if this was Tarantino's direction, but I can't listen to Stuntman Mike and not hear Bill, I'm gonna chalk this one up to the transparency of the writing again.

And basically the only reason I'd recommend people see this film is the car chase at the end. This is without a doubt the greatest car chase in the last 30 years, if not, one of the greatest ever filmed! This was filmed at full speed, without constantly cutting between different cameras, with real stunts and it really feels like a breath of fresh air compared to how action and car chases are filmed these days.

Death Proof (2007) is easily the low point of Quentin Tarantino's career, so much that I'd say it's pretty much completely un-noteworthy with the exception of the amazing car chase hiding out at the end of the film. 2/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

Want more Tarantino goodness? Check back all month for my Tribute to Tarantino in honor of his latest film Django Unchained (2012).

Go back to Tarantino's first film with Reservoir Dogs (1992), check out the first script he wrote (but didn't direct) True Romance (1993), The smash hit that really put him on the map Pulp Fiction (1994), another film written by him but in the hands of another director From Dusk till Dawn (1996), his blaxploitation-influenced crime film Jackie Brown (1997) or the revenge epic split between two volumes Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004). I got films planned all month, so be sure to check back!

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film (and 8 other Tarantino hits from his 20 year career) in this new set (now on Blu-ray) through these links:

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