Tarantino in Review: ‘Death Proof’
Cast: Kurt Russel, Zoe Bell, Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Synopsis: Two different groups of girls get targeted by Stuntman Mike, a psychopath whose particular method of murder involves running people down in his death proof stunt car.
Review: Tarantino films follow a very successful formula. Take a out-dated genre and had a healthy dollop of cool. The man has a gift for it. Blaxplotation, samurai, spaghetti Western, heist dramas – his witty and modern twist gives them a fresh lease on life for a new audience. Death Proof seems to have forgotten to add the second half of that formula. It perfectly recreates the 1970s ‘Grindhouse’ aesthetic but fails to include anything for modern audience to latch on to. Maybe that was the point, and if so it was accomplished, but perhaps Tarantino and Rodriguez got so caught up in their pet project that they forgot that people don’t go and see Grindhouse movies any more and with good reason.
All the usual Tarantino tropes show their faces with sharp dialogue, deft cinematography and memorable characters. Stuntman Mike is the best part Kurt Russel has had for over a decade and his car is certainly a scary looking piece of work. The Grindhouse style of filming looks slick in Tarantino’s hands, although the sheer amount of booty shots borders on the fetishistic.
Sadly much of the dialogue suffers due to the movie being paced like a drunk snail. The first half is pretty solid, with the consistent presence of Stuntman Mike in the bar adding a thick atmosphere of suspense as we build to the gruesome attack. After this we essentially hit the reset button and begin anew with a fresh set of characters. Unlike the first half we don’t get as much of Stuntman Mike lurking around waiting to pounce. Instead we have four women who work in the film industry talking nonsense. Tarantino’s dialogue has been praised in the past for it’s irrelevant patter but in this case it just doesn’t feel real. When the girls a negotiating with each other over performing a stunt on the car it doesn’t sound anything like how people would talk and it gets dull.
What works in the film really works. The final confrontation between Stuntman Mike and his victims, who he learns are professional stunt drivers, is blisteringly exciting and with Zoe Bell, playing herself, performing her own stunts things are especially thrilling. On that not it’s great to see a stunt performer getting the center stage for a change as they are the second most under-appreciated worker on the screen (body doubles being the first, with stars frequently taking credit for their work). It’s a shame that the movie couldn’t stay the course for the full running time as this had the potential to be a modern horror hit.
Score: SIX outta TEN