Tarantino& Rodriguez Bring Down The 'House'
by Scott Mantz
Starring: Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez
If you're reading this review and don't know what a "grindhouse" movie is, then read no further — the odds are that the outrageous new double-feature co-directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez is not for you. Taken one step further, if you do know what a "grindhouse" movie is, but are easily grossed out by excessive levels of bloodshed and violence, then this $53 million-budgeted tribute to the exploitation flicks of the 70s is still not for you.
Otherwise, get ready for "Grindhouse" — one of the coolest moviegoing experiences that you'll ever have. Unfortunately, it's also one of the longest. In an effort to pay tribute to the B-movie flicks that inspired them as kids (and, no doubt, as filmmakers), Tarantino and Rodriguez have opened the floodgates of bad taste with two ridiculously gory, but shamelessly entertaining films. But that giddiness leads to self-indulgence on both their parts, as "Grindhouse" needlessly teeters past the butt-numbing 3-hour mark.
Rodriguez kicks things off with "Planet Terror," in which a deadly virus turns the inhabitants of a small town into flesh-eating zombies. It's up to an eclectic group of survivors to prevent the disease from spreading any further, including Cherry (Rose McGowan), a stripper who has a machine gun for a prosthetic leg; Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), her bitter ex-boyfriend who wants his favorite jacket back; and Dakota (Marley Shelton), a doctor whose controlling husband becomes infected with the disease.
That's followed by Tarantino's "Death Proof," about a mysterious loner, named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, in his best badass performance since ?Escape From New York?), who uses his vintage Chevy Nova as a weapon of terror against unsuspecting female victims on the backstreets of Tennessee. But Mike is about to meet his match in the form of Zoe (Zoe Bell), Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), who use their Dodge Challenger to beat the sick-and-twisted road warrior at his own game.
As for which movie is better, it's hard to say — both are fun, but both are flawed. Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" is certainly more action-packed, though it does cover the same bloody ground as the director's 1996 vampire killer thriller "From Dusk 'til Dawn." By contrast, Tarantino's "Death Proof" is much talkier — perhaps too much talkier, since long stretches of dialogue tend to slow the movie down, especially when compared to the high-octane thriller that preceded it. To that extent, Tarantino's segment should have come first, so the film could have built up to the bigger bang of "Planet Terror."
Regardless, it's quite obvious that both directors are like kids in a candy store, making their films look as low-budget as possible with scratchy film stock, over-exposed prints and full reels that conveniently go "missing" during the sex scenes. Also included are trailers for other fake exploitation flicks, including "Machete," "Thanksgiving" and "Werewolf Women of the SS." At times, these fake trailers, directed by horror vets like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth, are more fun than the feature films themselves.
Without giving away the gory details, one has to wonder how such a hyper-violent movie like "Grindhouse" could get away with an "R" rating from the MPAA. Then again, the bloodshed is so cartoonish and over-the-top that you just can't take it seriously. Besides, that didn't stop a movie like the battle epic "300" from opening with more than $70 million at the box office, doubling its pre-release expectations. To that extent, maybe "Grindhouse" is for you after all.
VERDICT: SEE IT!