Death Proof (2007)

Death Proof (2007)

A White-Hot Juggernaut At 200 Miles Per Hour!

Stuntman Mike is a former Hollywood stuntman who uses his “death proof” stunt car to kill women. He has just finished off his latest victim when he targets a new group of girls he meets at a diner. Unfortunately he doesn’t reckon on them being tougher than his usual prey and they begin to turn the tables on their tormentor when his attempts to kill them fail.

 

Quentin Tarantino is an enigmatic director whose work I’ve never been a major fan of. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are classics but the rest of his films are sketchy, self-indulgent and seem to wallow in homaging older genres to which someone like me has never seen or simply has no interest in seeing. Tarantino and his best friend, fellow director Robert Rodriguez, came up with the idea of Grindhouse, a double-bill homage to trashy 70s exploitation films, in which both would direct a feature film, place them back-to-back and then throw in a load fake trailers in the intermission to add to the authenticity (some of which are now being made into feature films themselves including Machete, the pick of the fake trailers). The films were scratched and muffled to give them an ‘old school’ feel and some reels have purposely been cut out to again make it look like it was from the 70s. I have to laugh when I read reports that Americans walked out of the cinema after the end credits of the first film had finished because they thought that the film was over. Do they not read reviews or previews of the films they’re going to watch? The two films were then split up and released separately. Death Proof was the first one and received more commercial success than Planet Terror, which failed to ignite at the box office but, in my opinion, is the far superior flick.

Death Proof has very little story and that could easily have been set up as a short story. Instead the film is padded out to one hundred and fourteen minutes of pure boredom and it’s basically the same hour repeated again. Stuntman Mike comes across a group of girls, gets to know them, they talk about sex and drugs and all that stuff and then the girls leave before being pursed by the ‘death proof’ car with Mike at the helm. Once he kills off the first group of girls, you wonder where the film is going to go but Mike simply walks into another bar and meets another group of girls. It’s almost exactly the same routine as the first half with the same sort of self-indulgent dialogue tripe from Tarantino before the end chase.

Tarantino’s biggest fan is arguably himself and he loves to go to town with his script. He’s making a film not for the rest of the world but for himself. He seems to think that because he loved this type of film, then everyone else is going to be in the same boat. The characters talk like they’re straight out of a 70s exploitation flick with lots of F-bombs and N-bombs thrown around left, right and centre and he throws in plenty of self-referencing to films he clearly adored as a teenager. I admire the guy for being able to write scripts like this but I just don’t have any interest in them in the slightest. I find them dull, off-putting and eventually in the end they just turn me away from the film. It may have been fresh and original back in his earlier days but now it just seems like it’s the only trick he can pull off.

The highlight of the film is the extended chase sequence towards the end in which Stuntman Mike tries and fails to kill the second group of girls, only for them to turn the tables on him. It’s lively, energetic and well shot and it makes you wonder just what the wait to get to the good part was all about. And the best thing is that it’s all done with stunt men – not a CGI car in sight. Its how car chases used to be and should still be. Nothing beats the thrill of knowing that these chases are real. The head-on-crash in here is one of the most impressive and brutal every shown on film. They need to show this instead of crash test dummies ploughing into walls!

If there is one thing which I love about Death Proof is that it gives Kurt Russell the chance to star in his own major film for the first time in what seems like an eternity. Tarantino has a knack for reviving flagging careers of older actors and although it seems that Russell hasn’t been able to capitalise on this, it was at least a pleasure to see him headline a major film. He’s having a blast as Stuntman Mike and reminded me of just why John Carpenter frequently cast him back in the 80s.

 

I think you can tell that I’m not a massive fan of Death Proof and that’s an understatement. It’s talky and long-winded, delivering only minor thrills and an awesome performance from Kurt Russell. I admire Tarantino’s passion for the old grindhouse films and the love he has for them is clear to see in the intricate steps he’s taken to make it look as close to the 70s exploitation genre as possible. He has managed to bring back a forgotten age into the mindsets of today’s cinema goers and must at least receive recognition for doing that. But as a modern motion picture, Death Proof is extremely flawed, bordering on the terrible at times.

 

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