Yep, I’m swinging by the Tarantino zone once again though this time I’m finally picking up Robert Rodriguez along the way. I’ll admit, Rodriguez’s films have never really impressed me that much as Planet Terror was only alright, I didn’t like Desperado and there’s no way I’m even watching a minute of Machete. But, as far as I’m aware, this would be the first time Tarantino and Rodriguez teamed up together properly. You would guess this is a Rodriguez film almost straight away since the protagonists can’t wait to get to Mexico and that is indeed where the infamous last half hour of the film takes place.
Meet the Gecko brothers, Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino) – yes, the two of them are playing brothers. This film is made of win already. They are two notorious criminals who are on the run from the law (as only the best criminals are) and looking to cross the border into Mexico so they can deliver some money and get some sanctuary or something. I wasn’t really paying attention for that line. They luckily stumble across a family of three staying at a motel, retired minister Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his two children Kate (Juliette Lewis) and the Asian-for-some-reason Scott (Ernest Liu) and kidnap the family, needing them to drive their motor home across the border for them. Once they’re in Mexico, the film’s real plot kicks in: The five of them stop at a bar called the Titty Twister full of bikers, truckers, liquor and topless dancers. Only problem with the last one is that they’re actually vampires there to eat them.
I guess watching the first hour or so of the film you might be a little confused considering it seems a little too sophisticated for Rodriguez. The two halves of the film are really different genres with the first half being a cool suspenseful crime thriller with a bit of witty dialogue thrown in, but otherwise completely serious – almost like True Romance. Then the last half of the film is over the top campy and pretty much exploitation in the style of Evil Dead and films like that, which is definitely recognisable as Rodriguez’s style. The acting is hammy, the lines are corny, the effects are a bit hokey...but it is still friggin awesome. I’m trying to imagine exactly how this film was marketed as the vampires don’t show up until about an hour in so it was probably a twist back in the day and I’m sure people in the cinema were probably wondering what the hell was going on. These days we’re used to what Rodriguez and Tarantino put in front of us but it was probably a big case of mood whiplash for a 90s audience.
I’ve never seen George Clooney play a villain (though I was personally rooting against him and his nipple suit in Batman & Robin) or even a nasty guy so imagine my shock at finding him playing someone cool:
-“I’ve got six friends in this gun and they can all run faster than you”
He does overdo it at times but it works in the context of the film, and apparently he just threw the “no thanks, I already had a wife” line in himself so go figure. Now to talk about the awesomeness that is the sheer fact that he has Mr Tarantino playing his brother. Richie is a bit...odd let’s just say that. Tarantino should indeed have more leading roles since I enjoyed him in this, though I admire his selflessness in that he gave most of the best lines to Seth. But then again he also wrote himself getting a bikini dance from Salma Hayek. Speaking of Miss Hayek, she is so incredibly sexy in this film it’s almost a crime that I watched her in Frida first. Now I would normally talk about her performance but in this film it amounts to the dance and a few awkwardly delivered lines before morphing into vamp face. The other girl in the film is much more entertaining with her great comic timing and sexy Southern accent. For some reason she reminds me a little of Alyson Hannigan as Willow. Harvey Keitel is also pretty good as her father and makes the role his own. I didn’t care much for Scott and even Tarantino himself said he doesn’t like the character much. On the other hand I did enjoy the cameos of Tom Savini and Danny Trejo who made pretty memorable characters.
If we’re talking about favourite scenes, I enjoyed the whole final half hour of the film with the over the top vampire battle that was obviously inspired by George Romero’s zombie films, except of course it’s vampires instead of zombies. I do see a bit of Evil Dead influence in there though for those who are squeamish, the vampires’ blood is made green (a clever trick to get the film past the censors). Tom Savini morphing into a giant mutant rat thing is one of the most random and freakish things I’ve ever seen (and awesome of course) and the little scuffle with the creature is pretty entertaining. The whole final act plays out almost like a shoot-em-up video game, like Left 4 Dead or something (Left 4 Dead was no doubt inspired by this).
Moving away from the vampire scenes, Salma Hayek’s table dance is one of the sexiest movie moments ever, going hand in hand with Butterfly’s lap dance from Death Proof and Cherry’s go-go routine from Planet Terror. A fun fact says that Salma is afraid of snakes and Rodriguez conned her into thinking Madonna was after the role, so she spent four months in therapy to overcome her fear and do the part. And Quentin Tarantino is one lucky bastard (then he gets real unlucky – you’ll have to watch the film to get the details). Then there’s another fun scene where the group are at the border and the brothers are hiding in the motor home’s bathroom and Seth and Richie are bickering like a pair of old ladies. Oh and this was the debut film for Sheriff Earl McGraw but there comes a slight surprise in his appearance which kind of puts this film last in the Tarantino chronology.
So I’m getting even closer to the halfway point with my challenge and I’ve covered a lot of different genres so far. And believe me, there are a few that will be covered that I haven’t quite gotten to yet (no John Wayne though, sorry folks). And yes there will be more from Tarantino and indeed Rodriguez as well. Sadly I will bid adieu to most of the cast in this film apart from Salma Hayek and Harvey Keitel (three guesses which other film he’ll be making an appearance in) but I suppose we’ll always have the memories. Take care and steer clear of the Titty Twister, follow me on Twitter instead.