Movie Review: Death Proof (2007)
“It’s Going To Be A Wild Ride”
Death Proof (2007)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson
Synopsis: Two different groups of women are stalked by a serial-killing stunt man.
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Tarantino indulges his love of women’s feet and ‘70s exploitation movies in Death Proof, which was originally released as part of a double-bill with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror under the umbrella title of Grindhouse, and is acknowledged by Tarantino as the worst of his movies. That doesn’t mean he thinks it’s a bad movie – just that it’s not quite as good as the others he has made. There are few that would disagree. But, given Tarantino’s encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, and in particular the exploitation genre he is here seeking to… exploit, it’s tempting to wonder whether, like the occasionally clipped dialogue and artificial scratches that zig-zag across the screen, at least some of what is bad about Death Proof is, to some degree, intentional.
The film has no plot to speak of – more than any of Tarantino’s other movies, Death Proof is a deliberate and determined exercise in cool. His ear for naturalistic dialogue is intact, but when it’s issued from the mouths of the kind of sexy female petrolheads who exist nowhere in the world but Tarantino’s mind, it’s repeatedly in danger of tipping over into parody. Like most men in love, he seems blind to their flaws and expects us to hang on their every line simply because he’s so enamoured of them. Sadly, what is so fascinating to him is rather boring for the rest of us. These hip, cool and sexy women talk about nothing of importance for the best part of forty minutes before Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell – Executive Decision, Deepwater Horizon) glides into their lives, and the gulf between Tarantino’s depiction of him and of the girls on whom he preys is unmissable. The women are virtually interchangeable, but Mike is unique.
He is a man who bears the scars of both of his professions – stuntman and unconventional serial killer. He drives an intimidating black muscle car adapted to withstand virtually any kind of impact, but his battered looks and scary car don’t deter a hapless blonde from climbing in for a ride which she’ll never complete. However, her bloody fate is only a prelude to an act of outrageous mass murder that, quite frankly, only Tarantino would be allowed to get away with – and even then, only just. As outlandish and unlikely as Mike’s methods might be, they do at least enliven a film that was up until then in serious danger of collapsing under the weight of Tarantino’s verbose indulgence.
The film’s second half is a virtual copy of the first, except that the helpless female victims so typical of the genre to which Tarantino is paying homage are now replaced by a much tougher – but no less unconvincing – breed. The link between the two halves is provided by Mike, who, in a genuinely gripping and invigorating final twenty minutes, finds this new batch of victims less easy to intimidate. The film is worth catching for this sequence alone, not only because of the crowd-pleasing revenge element, but the peerless stunt-work from Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the Kill Bill movies).
(Reviewed 5th March 2017)