Another part of Tarantino's and Rodriguez's concept double feature – Grindhouse, was named "Death Proof". After Rodriguez managed to wrap up the production of "Planet Terror", Quentin followed with his own idea of molesting drive-in fantasies, concerning mostly early 70's road movies & slasher classics. In a way he landed with a fine piece of modern exploitation movie as it ticks all the boxes... the only remaining question is who actually re-opened these boxes first? Was it Tarantino with "Jackie Brown" and "Kill Bill" – the latter one being basically a homage to Filipino early 80's exploitation movies like "Cleopatra Wong" or "The One Armed Executioner" – or were they Japanese artists like Takashi Miike or Kinji Fukasaku? I'd rather point to Japanese, cause one of the flicks, which pushed Tarantino to reinvent the genre, was in fact „Battle Royale”... but that's for journalists and book writers to cover.
One of good things about Tarantino's effort is that we don't really have to sweat in order to crack the easter eggs. We get shoved all names down our throats as the characters start chatting on the screen and just drop them. Direct inspirations for the basic road frame of "Death Proof" would be such classic films as: "Vanishing Point", "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" and "White Lightning" while a slasher factor embraced by the artist would probably wink at such cult 70's flicks as: "Bay of Blood", "Friday The 13th" or "I Spit On Your Grave". As it became a sort of sport in film journalism to chain-link as many titles as it's possible in your super cool review of any genre movie, I'm gonna stop my guess hunting here and get down to it!
I liked "Death Proof", which doesn't mean it was as good as Tarantino's other dishes. I was actually pretty far from fulfillment experienced by watching "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs", "Inglourious Basterds" or even "Kill Bill". Having said that, it's entirely possible that "Death Proof" is the worst movie Quentin Tarantino ever made... but it still does the job by delivering the viewers a fresh take on a classic exploitation formula, which made it's comeback since! I'm gonna remind you that famous Roger Corman's formula consisted of three things – sex, action & humour! It came directly from working with American International Pictures, but then got developed even more when Roger started his own company – New World Pictures and knocked out many brainless flicks, considered cult movies today! As Tarantino has deep affinity for this old school of exploitation, he shot his own picture borrowing from it, but using modern standards and his own, wild imagination.
The plot of "Death Proof" is obviously very simple, because you cannot toss a New Giallo on the mass market these days. Sophisticated intrigue would make people drop on the floor in the theater from brain activity overload caused by tension. Tarantino just took the classics onboard and by playing around came with a story of a stuntman-killer named Mike, who has a passion for stalking & finally slashing hot chicks with his death proof car. Character played by Kurt Russell is a fine example of psychotic maniac, his role is as professional as it gets and might be seen as the biggest acting treat of the whole movie. Then we get to watch the chicks, a great package without a doubt. There are eight hot girls, while only four are to survive. As Mike hits the first four victims with his death machine – which gives Quentin an occasion to show this bloody sequence in a replay from many angles – ripped limbs are flying around in handfuls and gals die at the spot! The only thing for Mike to do afterwards is to jump the state as he cannot keep low profile in Texas anymore!
A scene changes and Mike is now in Tennessee. The time comes for real heroines – four smalltime actresses or stuntgirls. A protagonist of the pack is played by Zoe Bell – a professional stuntgirl, who was doing a double for Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill" and thus was a perfect choice for a character of the stuntgirl (easy as that). In "Death Proof" Zoe really shows off her line of work skills by riding on the hood of Dodge Challenger speeding 180 mph and making sure that stuntman Mike will get what he deserves for his naughty behaviour! There are some good dialogue lines in the movie referring mostly to pop & film culture and great music, which saves the day! At least here Tarantino didn't drop below a certain level. The Coasters, Jack Nitzsche, Joe Tex and the whole world of surf, soul, pop rock and indie lost gems. Lap dance done to "Down In Mexico" is one of the very best scenes of "Death Proof" reminding me of cartoonish sleazy vibe of "From Dusk Till Dawn". What can I say? "Planet Terror" comes as a much better shit in Grindhouse package, but then even classic drive-in packages had their lower end. I'd recommend to opt out if you don't like watching exploitation revival flicks at all!