Thursday, 21 July 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 35 - Grindhouse: Death Proof

#66 - Grindhouse: Death Proof:

Ah, Mr Tarantino, we have missed you. In the days since I watched True Romance I’ve been literally counting down the minutes until I’d get to watch your films again. Actually I just glanced at the list and forgot that my next film was Death Proof but was that the most moving crock you ever heard? Anyway Mr Tarantino and Mr Rodriguez teamed up once again to release two movies in 2007 homage to inner city movie theatres that would show a double bill of B-movies. Sadly this effect was lost on the general public and the two films ended up being split and as far as I’m aware, have yet to be released together on DVD. I managed to buy them both and watch them in order but I really couldn’t be arsed watching two films back to back in one night and reviewing both of them in the same entry would just be a big headache so I decided to just go with the one I preferred and that was Death Proof.

In this film we have two sets of girls who appear in different halves of the movie: the first set of girls consists of Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) the local Austin radio DJ with legs that go on for days, Shanna-Banana (Jordan Ladd) our sweet little Southern belle and Arlene who is nicknamed Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito) and is visiting her aforementioned friends in town for a trip to Shanna’s cabin at the lake. They stop at a bar along the way for a few drinks and that’s where they meet Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). He seems like a nice enough guy despite having a scar on his face and a skull and crossbones on his car. Oops, turns out he’s not a nice guy at all; he likes to stalk women and murder them using his car, which has been modified to become “death proof” by a stunt team. The second set of girls Abernethy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thoms), Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Zoe Bell (Herself) are part of a film crew on their day off and Zoe has spotted an advertisement about a car for sale – a 1970 Dodge Challenger which happens to be the exact same car from the film Vanishing Point. Zoe doesn’t just want to drive the car though, she wants to play Ship’s Mast. For those that don’t know, that’s a game where one person straddles the windshield of a car while holding on for dear life with two leather belts. And unfortunately for the girls, that’s exactly the time when Stuntman Mike decides to attack.

First thing is first; in order to enjoy this movie you have to take it with a grain of salt. It is about character development first of all, and nothing else really. In both segments it does take quite a while to get to the action part of the whole thing. The majority of the film is spent getting to know both sets of characters before they actually get thrown into the action. I’m someone who enjoys well written dialogue scenes and I just love all the conversations in this film. If we’re picking who was more enjoyable to watch, I’d say the first set of girls. They were a lot more fun and wild than the second set though I did like both, for separate reasons. I guess you could say that this is Quentin Tarantino’s own spin on a Chick Flick, except there’s no real romance or anything girly about it. There’s a lot of fun little touches like how the girls have to “woo!” every time they pass a Jungle Julia billboard, and the second group even get to recreate the breakfast scene from Reservoir Dogs. Sharp-eyed Tarantino fans will also spot that Kim’s car has the same pattern as Uma Thurman’s jumpsuit in Kill Bill.

Okay, let’s talk about the cast. Stuntman Mike is a complete legend. Okay let’s ignore the fact that he’s a twisted psycho who gets off on murdering people in car crashes, he’s hilarious and is definitely one of the most interesting characters Kurt Russell has ever played. The first group of girls are pretty fun with each of them having their own wild personalities. Jungle Julia is probably one of the hottest women alive and for those with leg, feet and hair fetishes you will get your money’s worth. Shanna is so cute as well with her accent and her little rant about how all girls called Shanna hate the name Shauna. And I don’t know why people don’t think Arlene/Butterfly is hot; she wasn’t as good looking as her two friends but she certainly kept my eyes open with her lapdance scene – some versions have that scene as a “Missing Reel” while others have it included, I think you know which one is best. And we have Rose McGowan acting for two under a blonde wig and hippie clothing playing Pam this time. And we actually do have male co-stars and none other than Eli Roth makes an appearance, playing pretty much the same douche character he plays in every film he appears in.
In the second set we have Tracie Thoms being absolutely hysterical as Kim, probably the perfect example of how to be a sassy black woman. Tarantino said he wrote her as a female Samuel L Jackson so that just serves to make her even more badass. Zoe Bell is not to be outdone and does pretty well as she is a stunt woman and not an actress really. Her character is likeable and fun and of course badass. Mary Elizabeth Winstead shocks the world by playing an actual likeable character. She is not the whiny Wendy from FD3 or whatever her name was in Scott Pilgrim, but a sweet slightly ditzy girl in a cheerleader outfit. Sadly Rosario Dawson doesn’t really break out of her usual characters and her character is a bit bitchy but she’s nicer than Gail and Persephone. Both sets of characters really work well with each other and they are the types of girls you would like to hang out with.

I feel like special mention should go to the soundtrack. I have never actually watched a film where I have loved pretty much all the soundtrack. And I actually didn’t know any of the songs when I first watched the film and now a lot of them have made their way onto my main playlist on my iPod. My dad nearly fainted when he heard me listening to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch (whom Jungle Julia gets the name wrong in the film by the way). The version of “Down In Mexico” by The Coasters is another fun song to listen to and it’s much better than the original version. The rest of the songs are pretty cool so that makes this film cover all the fanbases.
My favourite scene is of course the lap dance scene. If we’re comparing it to something like Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn or even Rose McGowan in Planet Terror, I think this scene is the sexiest. Vanessa Ferlito just gave it her all and made it one of the hottest scenes in movie history, especially successful considering she doesn’t really fit the Cookie Cutter Cuties mould. I also do enjoy the breakfast scene I mentioned above; it’s about seven minutes long and it’s all one take, with the camera moving around constantly and the actors not even phased at all. And you have to give props to both car scenes though of course the big car chase at the end trumps all the earlier scenes.

So one more day down and also another Tarantino film down. That little saga is far from over and I will be revisiting him very soon. If I have to do anything else, I’ll just make sure this film fits the Tarantino check list: Hot girls? Check. Cool cars? Check. Vintage music? Check? Stuff blowing up? Check? Character development? Check. That’s it for today and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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