Grindhouse opens its stained doors to the public

Tarantino and Rodriguez team up for double feature

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof

Grindhouse: Planet Terror & Death Proof
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Freddy Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin (Planet Terror); Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson (Death Proof)

3.5 stars

Grindhouse features films by two directors who know they can make whatever film they want and fans will still buy tickets. Some say if Stephen King published his laundry list, it would be a bestseller in a week. The same goes for a tape of Quentin Tarantino pissing into a water bottle and calling it apple juice.

Although both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez could have slacked off, they instead packed this three-hour double feature with enough humour, gore and jokes to fill the rest of your friendly neighbourhood theatre complex.

It’s important to know what to expect before entering a theatre. Those who recently watched Frank Miller’s 300 expecting a historically accurate and unsensationalized film probably left the theatre horrified.

The same applies to Grindhouse. If you want a tender suburban drama, an inspiring story of athleticism or an awkwardly innocent and touching slice of life, don’t see Grindhouse.

So what if Kurt Russell drives at 200 miles per hour or Rose McGowan launches grenades from what’s left of her right leg? Adjust your expectations accordingly.

The previews filled with zombies, serial killers, corrupt military officials, vintage muscle cars, gratuitous nudity and McGowan with an assault rifle for a leg might have tipped you off. Sound outrageous, exploitative, depraved and offensive? Yes. Now if only the directors didn’t have so much fun making the damn thing.

Using the exploit genre of the 1970s, Grindhouse brings the era of its devotion along for the ride. Missing reels that would connect desperate characters, grainy film stock and outrageous previews from the likes of Rob Zombie and Eli Roth all work to exploit the exploiters.

Rodriguez unveils his half of this lovely mess first with Planet Terror, which features McGowan and her assault-rifle leg. There’s not much more to this half of Grindhouse. It’s campy, shocking and Bruce Willis shows what would happen if John McClane became a flesh-eating biological freak.

Planet Terror might seem over-the-top, but that’s the point. Rodriguez is having far too much fun to care, exploiting every genre convention for laughs or even a snicker. A sex scene with a peg-leg? Bring it on.

However, Rodriguez does stretch things thin a couple times. The random zombies exploding like piñatas are a bit tiresome after an hour and for the love of God, will people please stop casting Tarantino in their movies?

Rodriguez also gets docked points for his attempt at political critique by name-dropping Osama Bin Laden. However, he redeems himself with a convoy of survivors led by a gun-toting man on a red mini bike.

Compared to Rodriguez’ excessive Planet Terror, Tarantino’s Death Proof seems strangely restrained. Chronicling the macabre exploits of Stuntman Mike (Russell) and the lovely ladies he murders with his fearsome muscle car, Death Proof is a vindicating revenge story for the likes of Rosario Dawson and superwoman Zoe Bell, who performs ludicrous death-defying stunts.

Need a new hero? Bell can fill the wall space Jack Bauer used to occupy above your bed.

Kurt Russell makes a great serial killer. He switches between restraint and rage " all while winking at the camera. Though most of the film occurs in the backwaters of Tennessee, at times you’ll swear Death Proof is Escape from New York " and that isn’t a bad thing.

All classic Tarantino elements are present. A rotating camera around a breakfast conversation in some low-class diner? Check. Rapid-fire dialogue while driving a vintage vehicle carelessly? Check. Black cast members reduced to saying “muthafucka” every other line? Check. A guy wielding a lead pipe like a battle axe? Check. That last one better become a new trope for Tarantino.

Although the dialogue isn’t as memorable as it is in most Tarantino flicks, he still knows how to keep his audience interested. Death Proof perfectly captures the feel of 1970s exploit flicks.

All the stunts are performed without CGI and the ending is more abrupt than premature ejaculation. After all, it is a revenge story. Now, if Tarantino could just realize he can’t act, we would all be in a much better place.

Grindhouse is a heaping mess piled with homage, parody, inside jokes, random nudity and a guest list including all Tarantino and Rodriguez’ friends. The duo is like spoiled little children doing whatever they want, shredding money like Enron shredded paperwork. It’s useless garbage providing nothing of substance. But would you want it any other way?

Grindhouse explores the ridiculous side of film while letting us enjoy all its glorious depravity. Most films are ridiculous trash, so why not admit it? Sometimes all we want is entertainment.

If you’re looking for garbage, enjoy some trash from two directors who actually know what they are doing. If all trash is this good, garbage day just got a lot more exciting.

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