Sunday, April 8, 2007

It's Blood. Son Of A Bitch.

Directed By: Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino (featuring Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, & Edgar Wright)
Dimension Films, 2007

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have become, as of late, every male film geek's wet dreamweavers. Rodriguez' Sin City set a new bar for every comic book film to follow, and Tarantino has been making films for film majors since 1992's Reservoir Dogs. Needless to say, Grindhouse is the team-up that every nerd that works at Blockbuster has been waiting for, and the film delivers on everything that gets their Back to the Future panties wet. Grindhouse is 3 hours and 15 minutes of blood, gore, laughs, gore, curse words, pop culture references, B-movie shout-outs, and more gore. But most of all, Grindhouse is just fucking fun.

The film begins with a trailer for a Rodriguez film starring Danny Trejo (Desperado, Con Air) as a Federale hired by the FBI to do a hatchet job in the U.S. called Machete. As the only trailer for a real film in the movie (it's going straight to DVD, look out for it), it's not worth a whole lot of mention here, but it looks awesome, so there you go.

After a credits sequence borrowed from Tarantino's previous two films, the Kill Bill series, Rodriguez' "zombie" flick, Planet Terror begins. Planet Terror stars Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer sans leg in a west Texas town who must escape the outbreak of a deadly virus that is turning people into zombies. Josh Brolin knocks his role out of the park as a doctor trying to get to the bottom of the outbreak, and Marley Shelton's role as his vindictive and mysterious wife is also spectacular, especially the scene where she's attempting to get her anesthetically impaired hands to open her car door. The best things about B horror films that you love laughing about are here: the unnecessarily convoluted plot, the gratuitous blood and gore, the sexy femme fatale. The plot twist where you learn that Bruce Willis' character, Muldoon, killed Osama Bin Laden, who unleashed a biological attack on his men, is absolutely hysterical. Like all the best cheap zombie directors, Rodriguez is able to convince you that he's completely serious.

The best gag, however, is the "Missing Reel" plot device. One moment, Freddy Rodriguez and Rose McGowan (complete with wooden peg leg) are about to get their fuck on, the next, the rib place they're hiding out in is on fire and surrounded by zombies. The characters make references to things that happened that we've missed, but in such veiled terms that it makes it that much more amusing. Quentin Tarantino makes a brief appearance as a creepy military officer that attempts to rape Marley Shelton and Rose McGowan. The unfortunate part of this (or maybe the fortunate part) is that you can tell Tarantino wanted to be menacing, but just came across as creepy. And not creepy in a genuine sense, but creepy in the sense that it's Quentin Tarantino trying to rape Marley Shelton and Rose McGowan.

Rodriguez' half of this double feature embodies everything that Grindhouse should be. He plays up all of the cliches of the B movie business, and somehow manages to do it with a straight face. There's not a whole lot of substance here, and it's honestly more of a comedy than a serious horror film, but it works. Like I said, it delivers exactly what it promises.

Between the two features, there is an especially lovely treat in the form of three fake movie trailers by some of today's leading horror directors. Rob Zombie (a personal favorite) leads the pack with Werewolf Women of the S.S., an hysterical send-up of Nazi horror films like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.. Revered German actor, Udo Kier makes an appearance in the trailer, as does Nicolas Cage in a great turn as Dr. Fu Manchu, the head of the werewolf operation. Following Werewolf Women, we get Edgar Wright's (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) offering, Don't, which features a spectacular voiceover from Arrested Development's Will Arnett. Eli Roth's slasher film, Thanksgiving brings up the rear, and is actually better than any two minutes from the entirety of Roth's previous work.

After the trailers, we segue into Tarantino's film, Death Proof. From the get-go, the film is very Tarantino. The problem overall with Death Proof, is that it's way too Tarantino. The dialogue is witty and quick, but there's too much of it that doesn't go anywhere. In the film, Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a retired stuntman that delights in murdering sexy girls with his car. After a long and drawn-out segment at a bar, Stuntman Mike kills some girls he meets at a bar. This segment is unbelieveably weighed down by Tarantino's dialogue, bloating what should only be a 10-15 minute segment into nearly 45 minutes. The film recovers somewhat in the second half, with a bitchin' chase scene, and some great stuntwork by the lovely Zoe Bell. Again, the "Missing Reel" gag comes into play, but it's completely unnecessary and Tarantino doesn't play on it at all. It's hard not to feel like Tarantino dropped the ball on his half of this film. Too much dialogue, too much homage, and not enough substance. Russell's character seems to do a 180, going from a calculating badass, into a scared little girl. The main problem with Death Proof is really that it's just way too Tarantino. It seems as though he becomes way too emotionally invested in what he produces to know what to cut from his films. The second half of Death Proof feels more like the sequel to the first half, instead of feeling like the same movie. The only thing they share is the principal character of Stuntman Mike. Bitching aside, Death Proof delivers some solid performances from Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, and Kurt Russell. And when it's not being too full of itself, it manages to eke out some great lines and a killer fucking car chase.

Overall, Rodriguez' Planet Terror trumps Death Proof on every front, but the real stars of the show are the auxillary players that bring the fake trailers. Wright, Zombie, and Roth all slay their parts, and prove that brevity is, in fact, the soul of wit. That's not to discount either Rodriguez or Tarantino (well, maybe a little bit), but it's proving the point that it's the little things about Grindhouse that make it so enticing. The little details like the ads and the trailers and the pre-credits credits and the worn look of the film and the cigarette burns. The beauty of this film is in the details, but when it comes down to it, it still leaves a little bit to be desired. (3.4/5 Stars)
More Along These Lines: Steven Speilberg's Duel, George A. Romero's Living Dead series, Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses & The Devil's Rejects

1 comment:

Billy said...

this movie is on my "to see" list for this week. I'm so fucking behind it's not funny.

-Billy F