death proof | quentin tarantino | kurt russell | zoe bell | rosario dawson | grindhouse | thriller | united states | vanessa ferlito | sydney tamiia poitier | tracie thoms | rose mcgowan | jordan ladd | mary elizabeth winstead | marcy harriell | eli roth | omar doom
Film: Death Proof
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell and Rosario Dawson
This was a film that I was bummed that I missed the Grindhouse double feature when it first hit theaters, but I did make up for that by seeing it soon after it hit DVD. I will admit that I really didn’t care for this one, but respected it as a film. I was really curious after hearing podcasts about it to come back to see if my thoughts have changed on it. I did luckily finally get to see the double feature as it was showing at my theater with a many of other Tarantino’s films ahead of Once Upon Time in Hollywood. The synopsis here is two separate sets of voluptuous women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his ‘death proof’ cars to execute his murderous plans.
Now to lead off here, this is Quentin Tarantino’s side of the Grindhouse double feature and this definitely feels like a film he made. We start here with a group of girls in a car. It is driven by Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and she is with Arlene (Tracie Thomas) and in the back is Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier). They’re in Austin, Texas and Jungle Julia is a local radio host. Arlene is only visiting. It is revealed by Jungle Julia and through a friend, that Arlene learns that on the radio that morning, a deal was set up that if anyone comes up to her, calls her Butterfly, buys her a drink and recites a poem, she has to give a lap dance to them.
They go a local bar to drink and they encounter Stuntman Mike McKay (Kurt Russell). He’s an older man who as his name implies, is a former stuntman. He is keeping an eye the group of girls as they’re drinking and having a good time. He is distracted though when Pam (Rose McGowan) needs a ride home and he agrees to do so. Stuntman Mike approaches Arlene later in the night and does what he’s supposed to for a lap dance. She declines, but he convinces her to changes her mind. The night takes a turn though as he uses his vehicle for a nefarious plan with Pam and the other women.
The film then shifts to Tennessee where we follow another group of women who work in the film industry. Here we have Zoë Bell (as herself), Abernathy Ross (Rosario Dawson), Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Kim Mathias (Tracie Thoms). They don’t realize that Stuntman Mike has turned his attention on them as well.
Much like I did with my review of Planet Terror, I wanted to go a little bit vague with the recap here, as this film doesn’t have the most complex story either. I could contend that this film has even less going on from the other film, as there are fewer characters here. I will say that this one definitely feels like a Tarantino film as it is really character and dialogue driven and that aspect is really good.
I did find it interesting that in keeping with the grindhouse feel, he decided to make a slasher film that is not traditional. I don’t necessarily agree that is how it plays out, but I do like Tarantino is all about empowering women. The first group of women doesn’t really embody this aside from Arlene. Stuntman Mike does know how to push her buttons. I most definitely think that Tarantino writes very strong characters in Zoë and Kim. I did enjoy this aspect, as we are really seeing an issue in real life with toxic masculinity being called out and women fighting for their equality even more.
Even though he feels that it’s a slasher, I don’t think that it really is that though. We do get Stuntman Mike stalking his victims. It’s not even the weapon he uses, his car, but what he does to the first group doesn’t really fit that. You don’t normally get that many dying at once in the sub-genre is really the issue that I contend against him. Something else I have issue with is this film doesn’t feel as much like a grindhouse film either. We do get the title was changed early on, which was common in the era and we are missing a reel. This film just feels more polished and I would have liked more of the issues with the film like Planet Terror had.
As much as it pains me to say, I do feel that this film is somewhat boring. It works in Tarantino’s other films where he can have long conversations. I think he wrote the dialogue just fine and the depth of the characters is great. I just feel that for a horror movie, we needed it do more to keep the interest. I’ve heard many people contend that this isn’t actually a horror movie and I can concede that it really doesn’t always feel like it. This is really more of an exploitation film. I do have to say that I like how the film ends for sure. It was just a bit of a struggle for me to get there if I’m going to be honest.
Something that I can’t say anything bad about is the acting. Russell is great as the villain here. He doesn’t really lie about anything, but there is just an aura about him. I do like the change in character with him at the end of the film. It is quite drastic and different from things you get. Bell is solid, even though she is playing herself as a female stuntwoman. I do like the lines that are written for her and how the character is developed. Dawson is solid in her performance. She isn’t the strongest, but I like her at the end. Ferlito is solid and I see her as a mirror of Thoms who is also good. I thought the cameos by Poitier, McGowan, Ladd, Winstead, Eli Roth and Tarantino himself. The performances are all solid across the board.
Another thing I can’t talk down on is the effects. Greg Nicotero worked on this one along with another member from KNB. This one has less in the way of effects and even though there was some CGI, the practical effects look amazing. There is really only one scene of CGI and I had no issues there what they did. The sequence with Bell outside of her car is absolutely amazing. I would have like more effects on the film for that grindhouse feel, but it is shot great and looks amazing.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack of the film. This is something that I do have to give it credit for. The songs used are necessarily ones that I would go back to, but they really do fit the scenes for what are needed. The scenes in the car at the climax really do get your heart racing and it definitely helps there for sure.
Now with that said, this film I still don’t really love, but I feel like my appreciation for it has come up on it. I think that it has an interesting concept and the villain is reminiscent of The Hitcher. I just think that this plays too much like a Tarantino film and it does bog itself down. The tension does pick up though during the climax for what is happening and the score there really helps as well. The acting does carry the film for sure and I think that even though there are limited effects, they do look good in my opinion. Overall I’d say that this film is slightly above average for me, but still worth a watch I would say.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10