Grindhouse (2007)

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Published on: 2007.04.08

IMDb: Grindhouse
Wikipedia: Grindhouse
Rating: R
(Strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use)
Length: 195 minutes (3:15)
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie
Genre: Action, Crime, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
My Rating: 8 (of 10)

You’ve probably never seen a movie like this. And you may not want to.

But I loved Grindhouse and I’ll probably own the DVD. If it weren’t for the second half of the “double-feature,” I would actually be tempted to say it’s the best action movie in years.

In case you haven’t heard, Grindhouse is actually a combination of two “feature” films. First, there’s “Planet of Terror,” written by Robert Rodriguez, and then there’s “Death Proof,” written by Quentin Tarantino.

I’ll handle them separately.

PLANET OF TERROR

This film is preceded by a fake trailer for a movie called “Machete,” allegedly starring Danny Trejo. It’s about a Mexican federale who comes to the U.S. to make money doing hatchet jobs for an American organization. On Wikipedia, the Grindhouse article says that Machete will actually be released as a full-length direct-to-DVD feature film. It looks crazily violent, sexy, and gritty.

But “Planet of Terror” itself is basically a gory zombie movie.

Rose McGowan stars as a South Texas go-go dancer, and Freddy Rodriguez is her ex-boyfriend El Ray (“Wray” on IMDb). The rest of the all-star cast includes Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, and Quentin Tarantino.

Zombies (created by a type of biological warfare, apparently released during the Iraq War) are spreading throughout the area, chomping on people and getting shot by the good guys.

The article on Wikipedia (see link above) gives away the full plot if you care to read it, so I won’t go into it.

What drew me into this film were the outstanding action scenes, the intriguing characters, the clichéd and stereotyped dialogue, and the homage that the directors made to exploitation films of the past. But this one went above and beyond any that I’d seen before, with bloodier violence, more eye-catching stunts and fake film grain and artifacts to imitate cheaper films of old.

One major problem was the “missing reel” scene, when the directors deliberately left out a scene and blamed it on a missing reel, as if the theater had accidentally misplaced part of the movie. It was a cute gimmick, but actually would have been a cool scene to see, if it actually existed.

Freddy Rodriguez’s character appears to be the hero of the story, until he fits McGowan with a prosthetic leg that’s mostly machine gun (she’d had her leg removed by hungry zombies). After that, McGowan is the heroine, blasting zombies and corrupt soldiers to bits with her fake leg, even using it to “fly” short distances.

“Planet of Terror” is fantastic, horrible, gory, violent, sexy, and exciting.

If it had been shown by itself, the impact would have been much greater. However, as it was, the film was followed by a disappointing release from Quentin Tarantino.

DEATH PROOF

“Death Proof,” which was Quention Tarantino’s contribution to the double-feature called “Grindhouse,” was preceded by three fake movie trailers, which allowed the movie audience time to visit the restroom or step out for a smoke.

“Werewolf Women of the S.S.” was a preview starring Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon, and Bill Moseley about a secret Nazi project from World War II. Rob Zombie directed the preview.

“Don’t Scream” is a fake preview by Edgar Wright, who directed Shaun of the Dead.

“Thanksgiving” is a fake preview by Eli Roth, about a Thanksgiving serial killer in a small town. Hilarious.

But the movie itself, “Death Proof,” was mostly disappointing.

Basically, Kurt Russell is the antagonist named Stuntman Mike, who gets some kind of thrill out of causing fatal accidents involving young, hot females. He’s driving his “death-proof” stuntman car, so he always survives the accidents.

The first half of the film, though, is just a serious of uninteresting conversations between some of the characters who are about to get killed, including actresses Sydney Tamiia Portier, Jordan Ladd, and Vanessa Ferlito, as well as Rose McGowan.

There are interesting camera angles (Tarantino was also director of photography), and the entire act seems like it was actually a recording of a real conversation, which is amazing in itself. But it’s still boring. Tarantino also has an admitted foot fetish, and he forces this on us by filming the women’s feet fairly often.

The fatal crash, when it eventually happens, is brutal and very well depicted, but doesn’t help to advance the plot. It seems like it IS the plot, at least up until that point. The entire first half of “Death Proof” could have been a 10-minute short instead of a 45-minute sleeper.

Then, the second half of the movie involves Russell’s character stalking four new victims, played by Rosario Dawson, Zoë Bell (as herself), Tracie Thoms, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

The best part of “Death Proof” is the ridiculously long car chase scene where Stuntman Mike first tries to kill three of the girls, and then runs from them to avoid being killed by them. The movie ends with Dawson, Thoms and Belle punching him silly.

Still, if you ask me, “Death Proof” should have been two film shorts, each about 10 minutes long. And it definitely should not be attached to the much better movie “Planet of Terror.”

Rodriguez and Tarantino continue to prove to the world that they’re some of the most inventive and unrestricted filmmakers in the business today, but Tarantino needs a little work before I’ll enjoy his new films like I enjoyed “Pulp Fiction” or “Kill Bill.”

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