Grindhouse – 3 ( out of 5 )
Grindhouse is one of those films, for many reasons, that is hard to quantify and review. First off it’s two completely separate films tied together by the most slender of threads. And second, much like Stephen Soderberg‘s The Good German (read that review), the film is a celebration of a type of filmmaking from our past. Much like Soderberg’s film, Grindhouse attempts and succeeds in recreating a style and genre of a period, and so ends up with the same problems – when you recreate an average (here 1970’s grind house style) film you end up with an average 1970’s grind house style film.
As a recreation both Tarantino and Rodriguez deserve praise for the style and feel of those old 70’s flicks including some built-in wearing of the negatives and some cleverly placed “lost reel” announcements. Fans of such flicks will enjoy all these clever moments, though you figure much of it will go over the heads of the target audience for the film (17-24 year-old males) who aren’t likely to get many of the references including the Drive-in style buffers, announcements, and commercials.
In terms of the films themselves, they both provide their own enjoyment but are each seriously flawed in their own ways, and in terms of mood and style don’t fit together as well as you might suppose.
The Double Feature begins with Robert Rodriguez‘s “Planet Terror” which is an old fashioned slasher zombie flick. An entire town becomes infected by a toxin released at a nearby military base. A man with a secret past (Freddy Rodriguez), a stripper (Rose McGowan), a local sheriff (Michael Biehn), and a doctor (Marley Shelton) try to stay two steps ahead of the infected zombies and a screwed-up military squad (led by Bruce Willis) who are after the chemical weapon for their own purposes. The film is bloody, messy, gross, funny, and includes some horrendous dialogue. Very gory, if it had gone for more of a Steven Seagal or Schwarzenegger bad acting, explosion heavy straight body-count action flick it might have worked slightly better.
The film includes one short (two-minute) and one extended action scene, but most of the film is with Stuntman Mike in the background (or not present at all) as the two different groups of girls talk, and talk, and talk. Well, it is a Tarantino flick, but after the non-stop action of “Planet Terror” the film’s incredibly slow pace is an awkward shift to ask the audience to make. The girls include, group 1: Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, and Rose McGowan, and group 2: Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Zoe Bell as herself.
Of the two films, “Death Proof” is probably the better, though it lags in many places though loooong scenes of exposition which have nothing to do with the main plot of the film. And it loses me in it’s final act where it takes the cool character of Stuntman Mike and makes him into a punchline simply for laughs. Nor is his behavior ever adequately explained – a big failing in a film with so much dialogue.
The Double Feature also includes several trailers, most of which look better than the two films we are given – in fact I wonder if the film would have worked better as a series of trailers or short grind house flicks rather than a double feature. Two of the best of these include Machete which looks so good Rodriguez decided to actually make the film, and the fake trailer for Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS which includes Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu!
I’m giving it a slightly positive review for the moments of each film which are far better than the whole and the accuracy of the two directors in recreating two totally different types of films from this genre. Though filled with great moments the over-done and over-long adventure seems much more like a flick to rent on DVD and show at a party, (buy plenty of beer), with all your friends. As a theatrical experience it will work for hardcore fans of the genre, turn off some, and leave many with an experience to talk about but one that never quite lives up to the kick-ass experience the trailers promised.
Grindhouse (3 Stars out of 5) is Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use, with a running time of 200 minutes.