Death Proof


Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by:Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Jordan Ladd, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thomas, Sydney Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito
Released: November 1, 2007
Grade: A-

At the start of the year, I remember seeing trailers for a new film called Grindhouse.  It was interesting experiment.  Directors Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) each made a 90 minute movie and they were shown back-to-back (complete with fake movie trailers in between).

Both films were a tribute to “grindhouse cinema”.  In the 1970s, a style of filmmaking was born where studios made really cheap B-grade movies and showed them largely in drive-in movie theatres.  They attracted young audiences by throwing in heaps of sex, nudity, violence, horror and drug use.  The genre died out in the early 1980s with the arrival of home video.

Anyway, Grindhouse failed to set the box-office alight when released in the United States back in April.  The decision was then made to split the films up when distributing them overseas.  This was due to concerns that international audiences had no concept of grindhouse cinema and that they’d struggle to sit through a 191 minute movie.

Death Proof is the first of the two films to be released in Australia and we’ve been waiting a long time for it.  Given that it is being shown as a separate movie, roughly 20 minutes worth of additional footage has been included.  The general consensus from the U.S. was that Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was the better of the two movies and perhaps this is why it is being shown in Australia first.  At the date of this review, no release date has been set for Robert Rodriguez’s film, Planet Terror.

After seeing Death Proof in a packed cinema, I can say it is an insanely crazy movie.  A loud round of applause was given after the abrupt (and incredibly violent) final scene.  In terms of its style, I’ve seen nothing like this all year.  It certainly looks like a B-grade flick – the film reel jumps in certain places, the editing looks poor and there are often scratches on the screen.  You’ll pick all this up in the first few minutes.  You’d think it actually was a film from the 1970s (except for the fact that characters use mobile phones and iPods).

What elevates the film above its genre is the smartly written dialogue and cool plot.  The story centres on a stunt-man named Mike (played by Kurt Russell).  He loves killing women.  He finds a target, waits until they’re on the open road and then smashes his car into them at high speed.  Mike always survives because he’s driving a special stunt-man car with many safety features.  The women are not so lucky.  He can get away with his crimes because a car accident looks exactly like that – an accident.

Despite what you might think, this isn’t a non-stop, blood-thirsty, action fest.  Most of the film is spent listening to people engage in conversation.  It’s reminiscent of other Tarantino films including Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.  Listening to the chit-chat adds to the film’s suspense.  You know something bad is about to happen – it’s just a matter of when.  I do think that a little too much time is spent though on these conversational pieces and that the film would be better served if 10 or so minutes were cut.

It all ends with a great finale which has to be seen on a big-screen.  The adrenalin-pumping car chase sequence left me on the edge of my seat.  Don’t ask me how but the film has escaped an R rating in Australia.  It’s rated MA (for 15 year-olds and above) but be warned – those adverse to graphic violence might be best to stay home.  For the rest, sit back and enjoy the ride!