Wednesday, September 12, 2007


So April March’s “Chick Habit” is jangling around in my head, and it’s one of the things I’m taking away from Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
Originally Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse, Death Proof has apparently taken on the role of favoured son, having its script released in book form, and having driven its way to Cannes, leaving Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror abandoned by the side of the road.
Much has been made of Grindhouse’s failure at the American box office (a discussion of the whys and wherefores of which would take up an article or three), but now that the two features have been split for their international and DVD releases, what we’re looking at here is to address the question, So is Death Proof any good?
And the answer is (he says rather coyly)…

Just as Grindhouse was split neatly in two, Death Proof itself is basically two vignettes of serial killer Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), as he terrorizes sweet young things with his car.
Said young things include Sin City’s Rosario Dawson, CSI: NY’s Vanessa Ferlito, Scream’s Rose McGowan, Cabin Fever’s Jordan Ladd, and Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell (as herself!).
So there are some car stunts, gruesome deaths, and a lap dance. Oh, and talking. A whole lotta talking.
Of course, we all know Tarantino loves his Chatty Patties, and Death Proof is chock-a-block, wall-to-wall, pedal to the metal yadda yadda. Which is fine, actually, but when each vignette is basically one long, protracted discussion, topped by a car chase and violence, there isn’t much to warrant the feature-length treatment.
If only Tarantino had fueled Death Proof with a little more Kill Bill (the momentum of the moving image as narrative engine) and less Jackie Brown, this might have been a far more enjoyable ride.

Having said that, Death Proof does have its moments (and I did end up liking it more than Jackie Brown).
There’s Eli Roth and Nicky Katt in small roles, there’s Three Kicks to the Head Part Three, there’s the Ship’s Mast gone wrong sequence, there’s the moment the second vignette bursts into glorious, eye-popping Technicolor, there’s Zoe Bell as herself.
And then of course, there are the Kill Bill nods. (And sure, one of them was pure expository device, but it was an entertaining expository device nonetheless.)

Ultimately, Death Proof is fun—provided you can enjoy the lo-fi, no-budget grindhouse aesthetic the production adopts—but would have been far more effective at a shorter running time.
Ironically, perhaps the best place for Death Proof may have been within the confines of a grindhouse-themed anthology (as opposed to the double bill approach Grindhouse took), where it would have been freed of the burden of a feature length running time. As it stands, this just feels like a short story that’s been padded, force-grown into a novel.
Maybe if Tarantino had filled in the time with more narrative nuts and bolts from the School of Cause-and-Effect Plot Action instead of all that blather, we could have enjoyed a top-down, wind-in-your-hair, radio-blasting-“Chick Habit” ride down the freeway rather than the erratic, fluctuating, stuttering trip we’re taken on.

Parting shot: Before Dimension does the double-dip (and I can only assume that giving Grindhouse the proper DVD treatment is somewhere in the cards), where do the faux trailers get their chance to grace TV screens?

(Death Proof OS courtesy of; UK quad courtesy of; script book cover art courtesy of

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