Coming to our screens as a single movie, as opposed to a ‘Grindhouse’ double feature with Rodriquez’ Planet Terror, Deathproof packs little of its directors legendary punch. Thanks to small turnouts in the US, we on this side of the Atlantic have to suffer through additional chat and superfluous lap dancing instead of a thrilling double whammy of old-style movie making.
The sting of Deathproof lacking its partner in ‘Grindhouse’ crime is that the movie was never meant to be a serious movie, per se. It should have been an homage, along with Planet Terror, to those badly-done, violent movies of old – keeping tongue firmly in cheek at the bad editing, and revelling in the blood-splattering gore. Instead, Tarantino has stretched his own movie to feature length with badly written dialogue and redundant exposition. Without any of the quotability of Tarantino’s other films, it veers haphazardly from insipid conversations to all out action. The all-too-infrequent adrenaline rushing car chases are fine pieces of moviemaking, but the preamble of mindless chat over-softens the punch.
Seeing Deathproof at the premiere after being riled by the director into a state of high-excitement will differ somewhat from the standard experience. Unfortunately for the general movie-going populace, having Quentin Tarantino run up and down the aisle shouting is what lifted Deathproof from mediocre to entertaining. Without his infectious glee, it is a sub-standard piece of fluff. Self-indulgent to the point of boredom, it comes across more as a vanity project than as any kind of experiment in filmmaking.
Some parts are unashamedly entertaining, and the final car chase, in particular, blows recent CGI attempts out of the water. The stuntwoman-come-actress, Zoë Bell, plays a stormer in the tricks department, but the movie smacks suspiciously of being written purely to give Zoë a chance to show her talents. Exciting though her scenes are, it cannot really make up for the many uninteresting preludes.
Kurt Russell makes good B-movie cheesy impact as the grizzled Stuntman Mike, getting his kicks from road-rage – and the car chases really are fantastically thrilling. Despite these small oases of fun, the unusual ‘Grindhouse’ double-feature element is what really sold the movie to audiences this side of the pond. The overriding disappointment is, of course, that the directors didn’t fight harder for the ‘Grindhouse’ format to stay intact.
Deathproof lacks that edge we’ve come to expect from Tarantino – and all the ‘quirky’ edits and flashes of black and white in the world can’t make up for what is, essentially, a quick fix of a movie. Fun enough to watch, but it won’t leave a lasting flavour.
Inconsistent to the last, one cannot help but wonder how much better it would have been to see the actual ‘Grindhouse’ experience – with Deathproof and Planet Terror filling a bill together. Alone, it stands, a disappointing piece of a filmmaking from a man we know could do better.