Grindhouse - Double Your Money
| The previews make this film seem completely over the top. It’s two of Hollywood’s “bad boy” directors making genre exploitation films and there’s going to be sleaze, sleaze and more sleaze. However, what the trailers won’t tell you is that inside this marketing gimmick are a couple of really good films.
First up is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. The images are insane; a woman with a machine gun for a leg, horribly mutated zombies, a female doctor with a needle gun. It’s a recipe for B-movie madness… and the results live up to the image.
In this age of post-modern zombie movies like Shaun of the Dead and Fido, it is hard to make one that doesn’t feel cliché. So why try? Instead take all the things that make a zombie film ridiculous and rejoice in it. That’s what Rodriguez does. He has a great deal of fun and in the process makes a film that’s a lot of fun. He doesn’t hold back with the gore or the cockamamie plot or the violence. Instead he winks without winking too hard and just lets the film have a good time. He manages to write a fairly decent story so that it’s entertaining.
In my opinion, he’s the weaker of the two directors in this double bill. His films never reach the depth of his friend’s or the style. Here that’s the case too. Planet Terror is pure fluff but it’s delicious. This may be my favourite Rodriguez film.
But then things really get going with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. This is a muscle car-slash-slasher movie… if you can believe that. Tarantino’s hidden feminist that rose so strong out of Jackie Brown to triumph in Kill Bill is back. He turns this into a feminist revenge thriller.
Death Proof has all Tarantino’s signature dialogue. He slows things down from the frantic and messy pace of Planet Terror to get our brains moving again. He shows us some real characters, introduced like in his other films, through their interactions with each other, through their banter. Then he let’s his cooler than cool killer loose and we’re in for a wild ride… literally.
What I love about Tarantino’s approach is the way he critiques traditional gender roles through scoffing at macho clichés and giving women a voice that isn’t restrained by their gender. Here he has the very strong Rosario Dawson face off against the killer, played by B-movie king Sna… I mean, Kurt Russel. Yes, fan boys, he’s playing with you and it’s a loving play. Sure he’s calling you “dork” but he’s doing so lovingly. Death Proof is a strong adrenalin rush that doesn’t ignore the brain. Taratino, despite his image, is a thinking man’s film maker, and a progressive one at that. Grindhouse proves Kill Bill wasn’t a fluke.
Are you paying attention Frank Miller?
Thrown in the middle are some stock “coming attractions” and “feature presentation” reels which harken back to the 70s just to frame the piece. Then there are the faux “trailers” thrown in between the main features. These are hit or miss. It’s a fun idea that most often isn’t executed well. The main directors did such a good job of transcending the gimmick and making decent movies, that it becomes clear that these guys didn’t get the memo. Their stuff is schlocky and just doesn’t have the same bang.
Eli Roth (Hostel) provides a particularly misogynist preview for Thanksgiving. His work is crap anyway so thank God this won’t be coming to a theatre near us soon. Rob Zombie of The Devil’s Rejects fame directs a clip for Were Women of the SS but the whole joke is in the title. Once you see the images it almost saps all the fun right out of it. Even Rodriguez’s Machete is weak compared to Planet Terror. The only one that’s truly inspired is Edgar Right’s Don’t Scream. Like his film Shaun of the Dead, it’s funny and smart. I think funny is what’s missing from the rest. They don’t get that to be funny you have to think of something clever not just shock people into giggling.
Anyway, the whole package is a great deal of fun and it’s the kind of thing that’s more fun in the cinema than at home. Don’t wait to watch this at home alone cause that’s geeky. These guys happened to make a couple great films while they were indulging themselves in a fun publicity stunt.
However, if this spawns a revival of the old grindhouse cinemas don’t be disappointed when you get there and find the films really do suck so bad. Just cause these ones turned out well doesn’t mean that what inspired them wasn’t crap.