Cert: 18 Runtime: 113 mins Director: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rose McGowan and Eli Roth
It’s better than safe. It’s death proof
So Death Proof was a part of Grindhouse a project that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez created, it was a homage to the B movie genre. So basically we had a double feature with Planet Terror then Death Proof. In Austin, Texas, girlfriends Julia Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and Lanna Frank (Monica Staggs) meet in a bar to drink, smoke and make out with their boyfriends before travelling alone to Lake LBJ to spend the weekend together. They meet the former Hollywood stunt man, Mike (Kurt Russell), who takes Pam out in his “death-proof” stunt car. Pam (Rose McGowan) soon discovers Mike’s secret. Fourteen months later, Mike turns up in Lebanon, Tennessee. Abernathy “Abbie” (Rosario Dawson) works in the make-up department on a film set. Zoë Bell, Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are all chased by him but the girls are tough and decide to pay-back the attack. Grindhouse cinema was never revered in its day and many have questioned its reprisal. For an audience to require adequate knowledge of such a minnow in cinema history is regarded by many critics as asking too much and is adduced as being a major factor in its downfall. This is due to the belief that Tarantino has made a film for too niche a market, and as a consequence it should be of no surprise that it flopped at the box office.
This is something that I whole heartedly disagree with because, to the contrary, I believe that Tarantino has made his most selfish film to date, he has made something that he wanted to… that no studio dictated… no executive planned and no audience asked for, this film is 100 percent his and it just so happens that not that many people like it, all great directors make films that fit into this category.A major critique of Death Proof has been that it contains a lot of dialogue, but I feel that this should be expected as it is a remembrance to Grindhouse cinema and these types of movies are notorious for the amount of talk they can contain and the amount of “build up” they might have and Tarantino himself is recognised as being a writer that emphasises the dialogue in his films. Modern cinema goers are likely to not have the patience for such an offering and thus dismiss its significance and become agitated at a lack of “action” and this is evident from some of the reviews on this website.The film is about two separate sets of voluptuous women who are stalked by a stuntman called Mike that uses his death proof cars to execute the women. The essence of the story at the heart of Death Proof is that it’s impeccably nostalgic as it insinuates to the very essence of cult, it is a forged story because of its countless renditions and numerous re-tellings by the way of novels, films and tales.Being familiar with such a story allows for an ease in understanding and following of narrative – a common attribute in cult films. The voluptuous women, or female characters, in the film are all so similar in appearance yet all so different in disposition, because the film is essentially split into two parts we witness the floundering of one set of female characters and the resurgence in dominance of another.
The female empowerment in Death Proof is symbolic to a desire for masculinity which is so wonderfully conveyed by their attempt in “taming” the car (I shouldn’t need to mention what the car is symbolic of). It’s often perceived that in these films masculinity must be achieved in order to succeed, which in itself is a direct reference to the inspired B movies of Russ Meyer.On a personal level I was happy to watch a film that accomplishes its stunt work without any CGI and re-live many of the films I dismissed too eagerly in my youth. Being a homage the film is littered with references, the most notable of which being the casting of Kurt Russell – a deliberate nod to the master of cult (and horror) John Carpenter (the shirt worn by Jack Burton, from Big Trouble In Little China, is visible on the wall in the bar), The Dodge Challenger driven by Stuntman Mike has the plate numbers OA5599, which correspond to the white Dodge Challenger from the heavily referenced film Vanishing Point. The film also contains lots of Tarantino-esquire moments, from the copious amount of foot shots to re-appearance of Sheriff Earl McGraw, and there are some moments of pure Tarantino ingenuity i.e. the four-shot death scene, the reversed hospital set, the lap dance, the shot of the car in the rain, Stuntman Mikes nod to the third person and the wonderfully constructed soundtrack.