Saturday, April 14, 2007

Grindhouse

Greetings, TMBC-keteers! I was hoping to get this review of Grindhouse written and up on Friday, but you know how life is. Better late than never, right? And for those of you who were wondering why the latest joint from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez turned in such a mediocre performance at the box-office this weeked, I'm going to shed some light on that, but, not in the way you expect.
As you've all read or heard, I'm sure, Grindhouse is a loving tribute to the low-rent type of cinema that you would see in the inner city, if at all. The bread and butter of the genre were various exploitation films, horror flicks, spaghetti westerns, etc. Robert Rodriguez's portion of the double feature, Planet Terror, is a mash-up of every zombie movie and R-rated action movie you've ever seen. Tarantino's portion, Death Proof, is an odd mix of car movie, slasher film, and women's lib riff. Both films have been artificially aged, with added crackles and print damage, and with "missing reels" at "inopportune" moments. Plus, there are fake trailers from the likes of Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth!
I should note that I saw Grindhouse in the best possible circumstances: in a crowded theater, two days before the official release date, on a Wednesday evening. While there were a few jokes that went over the heads of the crowd, they were pretty tuned in, for the most part.
Planet Terror revolves around a zombifying virus that has origins too bizarre to recount (and spoil...) here. Pulled together to combat this menace are El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), a diminutive bad-ass with mysterious origins, Cherry (Rose McGowan), a former stripper who gets her leg gnawed off by the zombies, which turns out to be their mistake....Doctor Block (Marley Shelton), an anesthesiologist who becomes more and more unhinged throughout the film. Also appearing are Michael Biehn as the hard-assed sheriff, Tom Savini as the eventually doomed sheriff's assistant, Josh Brolin as Doctor Block's sinister husband, etc. PT is extremely well cast with actors who understand the material, and treat it with the appropriate performances (or lack thereof). It functioned as less of a parody for me, and more of a kick-ass, WAY over-the-top horror-comedy in the vein of Evil Dead II or Return of the Living Dead. Of the two features, PT is vastly superior to DP, and an extremely worthy follow-up to Sin City for Rodriguez.
Death Proof is the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a psychotic movie stuntman who stalks and murders young women with his special "death-proof" car. It's tough for me to go into this section without using heavy spoilage, but I have to say that I was disappointed. I thought that Kill Bill Vol 2 was the best film QT had ever done, and DP was a mostly slow, EXTREMELY talky piece that was mostly a homage to the old grindhouse films tangentially. All the elements are there, but DP is like a QT film disguised as a grindhouse film. There is some stunning stuntwork from Kiwi stuntwoman and former Xena double Zoe Bell (playing herself in a great debut performance), and a long car chase towards the end of the film that more or less makes up for the talking, talking, and more talking. DP is definitely the My Dinner With Andre of the grindhouse set.
And the fake trailers? Glorious. Completely glorious. So glorious, I can't spoil them for you. Oddly enough, the only real nudity in the film is in two of the trailers. I will say this, though: Grindhouse gets a point shaved off of this review for not including the transcendant Hobo With a Shotgun trailer with it. You can YouTube HWAS, and I recommend you do.
What's the bad? There really isn't much bad that I found with GH, but the running time of 3 hours and 11 minutes definitely explains a thing or two about it's poor box-office performance. I would consider that a plus though, as the film is supposed to be a double-feature. That, and it might confuse people as to whether it's supposed to be funny, scary, or both. For those more sensitive audience members, most of PT, and bits of DP are insanely gory. I don't even want to contemplate how many times the damn thing went before the Puritanical MPAA. Consider yourself warned. But, if you were going to see it anyway, you're probably aware of that.
If it seems like I don't have a lot to say about Grindhouse......I don't. But you shouldn't consider that a bad thing. It delivers exactly what it promises to, with some breakout performances from Freddy Hernandez and Zoe Bell, and lots of solid performances from older actors, like Kurt Russell's creepily hilarious Stuntman Mike. I would give Death Proof a 10 and Planet Terror a 16. Add a few points from the fake trailers, and Grindhouse gets a solid 16 out of 22. I hope to see you at the "grindhouse," but I probably won't if you fall in step with the rest of America, which seems to consider Ice Cube and 3D Disney better entertainment. Boo, America.........

2 comments:

Particle Man said...

while i agree that the manufactured comedies about Ice Cube getting puked on are a complete waste of America's time, i'm not sure that going completely the other way (which is what Grindhouse seems to be doing) is really smart either. wouldn't it be better to find some kind of middle-ground? i'll admit, though, that it seems strange (and kind of impossible...) to find a middle-ground between Disney and QT.

Your Racist Friend said...

There is nothing wrong with Quentin Tarantino's filmmaking, whether or not you find the subject matter in good taste. Even Death Proof, my least favorite QT movie, is a lot better than most of the garbage Disney churns out, regardless of the fact that 99% of the Disney stuff is much more appropriate for a wider audience.