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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DEATH PROOF (2007)

The Quentin Tarantino half of GRINDHOUSE, a faux double-feature ‘70s exploitation B-pic (originally paired with Robert Rodriguez ‘s PLANET TERROR) is now an expanded stand-alone release. Kurt Russell has a grand time as Stuntman Mike, a psychotic has-been stunt-driver who gets his kicks by chatting up nubile ladies half his age and then plowing them down with his customized ‘death proof’ car. Tarantino uses a simple mirror-image structure, with Russell as the only link, for a win one/lose one morality tale. Alas, the same success ratio applies to the film. The first encounter is nicely realized, especially the extended bar sequence that’s all hilarious talk about guys, gals, sex, booze & philosophy. It’s as if William Saroyan had written for American International Pictures. (It’s this part of the film that’s lovingly etched with mock dents & bruises such as you might have found on a battered Drive-In movie print. My favorite bit shows just the sort of color-value tone variation you’d often get on reel changes.) But the second half of the pic fritters away our good will & interest with some of the worst writing & acting ever seen in a Tarantino pic. No doubt this was intentional, but the phony camaraderie and ‘You go, girl’ attitude of the revenge-minded gals is hard to swallow.

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