Never trust a dude that can rev it up to over 150, and still collect retirement checks.
Kurt Russell stars as a Hollywood stuntman named Stuntman Mike. He’s cool, lean, mean, drives a sexy, muscle car, looks as fly as can be, and is also very quick to the point. Whenever he walks into a joint, he’s the coolest mofo there, if not the most mysterious as well. However, what most people don’t know about him is that he’s a raging sociopath that goes out of his way to kill beautiful, innocent women on the road with his sexy, muscle car and is finding more and more victims of his to prey on. But not all of the ladies he is on the hunt for are going to stand down from a fight.
That plot synopsis up above may make this movie seem like a pretty straight-forward, slasher flick that doesn’t really deserve the light of day, let alone the light of a movie theater. However, what may change your mind as quick as possible is the fact that it’s written and directed by none other than Mr. Crazy Genius himself: Quentin Tarantino. And if you know Tarantino like I do, you know that nothing he does is ever straight-forward. Thank the Movie Gods for that!
All of those 70’s exploitation flicks that had to do with fast guns, faster cars, and even faster women, are the perfect examples of what Tarantino’s trying to do here. And yes, obviously that style is going to be over-the-top and a bit dated in spots, but it’s Tarantino, and when the guy wants to make a movie, in whichever way possible, you can’t help but come along for the ride too and just share his same sense of joy and pleasure. Since this is Tarantino’s attempt at trying to recapture, or for lack of a better word, “recreate” the same style as those before him, he uses a lot of the trademarks where the camera has little rips and tears throughout, making you feel as if you are sent right back into to the golden years, into those little, rinky-dink theaters that used to carry these unapologetically dumb movies around in order to find it’s audience. After awhile though, it starts to feel like a gimmick, which is why you can sort of tell that Tarantino gets bored with it as well as he changes things up around the second, and in my opinion, a lot more interesting second-half.
However, before we even get to that second-half of the movie, we get to see Tarantino work his magic in a slow, melodic movement that sets the pace for the rest of the movie. Instead of popping out with guns ‘a blazin’ and blood shootin’ out of everywhere, Tarantino begins this film in a quiet, almost relaxed pace where we get to see these female characters talk one another, just like normal females would actually talk to each other. Now, I’m not sure that all girls out there in real-world talk as interestingly and witty as Tarantino makes them out to be here, but they still have conversations about the same topics as most women do like men, sex, food, and partyin’ it up. But Tarantino scripts it all in a way that you want to hear these gals talk it up and it almost doesn’t matter that it goes on for about 30 minutes at a time with barely little to no action to be seen. It’s very interesting and fun to hear them just speak about whatever the topic of discussion is, and somehow, makes us care for them a wee bit more especially when shit hits the fan.
And do trust me on that: Shit does in fact hit the fan here.
Although Tarantino’s dialogue doesn’t seem to miss a single beat with any of these characters, the action is what really takes the second-half and makes it the adrenaline-fueled experience I was expecting to see, but didn’t quite get until it totally blind-sided me out of nowhere. What I loved so much about the action bits here, is that they all felt really old-school, but in a way that wasn’t forced or trying too hard, but in a way that felt natural. The cars in this movie look great and make you really want to go out there and try your hand at a couple of 70’s-era muscle cars yourself. Then again though, they wouldn’t be of any use whatsoever if it wasn’t for the awesome car-chases that take over this flick, especially in the last half-hour. And when I mean the last half-hour, I mean: THE LAST HALF-HOUR.
What separates the car-chases in this movie, from the ones that we usually see in big-budget, action galore-fests, is that they feel necessary to the plot and these characters. Every character in this movie talks about their love and fondness of cars and how they love to get wild when they’re in and driving them, so that when they get on the roads and start going 90 mph down the freeway, you feel like it’s believable, as if they really do enjoy driving in these cars, at these very high speeds. And even the car-chases themselves get you going at a high-speed where you really feel like these are real people, driving real cars, on real roads, and actually have the fear of death in their minds while they’re at it. These scenes reminded me a lot of the one in Bullitt, where it just felt like it was actually happening, without any add-ons like unbelievable CGI or anything of that crappy nature. It gave me fear for these characters in the pit of my stomach, but even worse, it made me scared for myself the next time I get myself behind the wheel because I know that staying below 80, would be a little too hard.
But, even though this film kept me entertained, alive, and well for the most part, there was still something that I felt was missing from the product as a whole. I don’t really know what it was about this movie that just didn’t “get me” as much as all of Tarantino’s other flicks do, but it’s almost like the feeling wasn’t here as much as there is when he does something like Kill Bill or Inglorious Basterds, aka two passion-projects of his that he lets you never forget about, not even in a single-frame. Here, you can tell that he has some feeling and interest for what he’s displaying on-screen, but the passion and love just isn’t all there that much. Almost feels like he went through the motions in what he thought was cool, but didn’t want to get too carried away as he probably is saving them for a later film idea that he has brewing around in his crazy-ass head. Still love the guy, though. I always have to give him that.
Even though some of the feeling for this whole film may not be around, you can still tell that the cast has that feeling, and all do great jobs with what they’re given. This is probably the first time that Kurt Russell has ever went out there and been a straight-up baddie, but since he is a baddie in a Tarantino flick, he’s obviously not going be your typical, scenery-chewing a-hole where you can tell what he’s going to do, every second of the way. See, Russell plays around with this role a lot as he’s very mysterious, strange, creepy, charming, but also, a bit of a bitch when it comes right down to it and by the end, you’ll start to see that more and more. It’s an awesome performance from Russell that shows that the guy can still knock-out iconic pieces of work, no matter how old he gets.
All of the gals in this movie are great, but the one that really took me by surprise would have to stunt-woman Zoe Bell, playing, well, stunt-woman Zoe Bell. If you’ve never seen Bell in anything else before, don’t be ashamed, because you shouldn’t. The girl has never really been in front of the screen to where you can see her face and has been doing stunts for quite awhile, but here is where that all changed a bit. Here, Tarantino gives her more than she expected with a role that displays an endearing sense of charm and likability to her that works and makes me think about all of the other stunt-men and women out there that have to constantly be in films where they aren’t shown doing anything, other than pulling-off some pretty sick stunts. Maybe they like that, but then again, maybe some of them out there have some real, effin’ charm that needs to be seen, in order to be believed.
Consensus: Death Proof is certainly not anywhere near being Tarantino’s best, but still features plenty of his trademarks that make it a great flick and never seem to get old, even if the film itself is trying to set that example with the grungy, 70’s-look that can get a bit gimmicky and unnecessary at times. That said, it’s way better than Planet Terror.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/planet-terror-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.