Vol. 2, Issue #6 April 13th - April 26th, 2007

Film Review: Grindhouse
By: Wilhelm Murg

In my opinion everything Quentin Tarantino has touch has been worth watching, but at the same time it’s been thirteen years since he made his last true masterpiece, “Pulp Fiction,” the one everyone quotes from. Robert Rodriguez has been hit and miss in his career, but the difference is when he bombs he bombs big, like “The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D,” but when he hits, he hits it completely out of the ballpark, such as in his adaptation of “Sin City.” The two have equally collaborated in “Grindhouse” which is easily one of the most entertaining films of the year. It’s not a masterpiece, but in many ways they were trying to make an anti-masterpiece. If more films like this had played the actual grindhouses, the theaters would probably still be in business.

The film is divided into two parts, Rodriguez comes out swinging first with “Planet Terror,” an ultra-gross zombie film that encompasses a jealous husband trying to kill his wife over a lesbian affair, a go-go dancer with an assault rifle in place of a prosthetic leg, Bruce Willis trapped in a government conspiracy after killing Ben Lauden, and enough fast cars, gun fire, hot women, and zombie juice to satisfy even the most discriminating gorehound. One of the biggest problems with making an exploitation film is living up to the trailer and poster art, but Rodriguez stands up to the challenge; the film runs like a trailer with just enough plot to justify its existence. It’s not the “Clockwork Orange”-styled ballet of violence of “Desperado,” and it’s not supposed to be; this is violence with all the subtly of a machinegun.

Tarantino’s piece, “Death Proof,” feels a little more like his contribution to “Four Rooms,” an idea for a film that he could never flesh out to a feature. The biggest hurtle is that he chose to go back to a dialogue driven action film, but the majority of the cast are women. While “Reservoir Dogs” would have been entertaining even if we had never left the coffee shop, and we’re almost disappointed when Jules and Vincent have to stop their conversation to deal with the glowing suitcase in “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino’s dialogue for these normal women is rather mind-numbing.

It’s hard to talk about “Death Proof” without giving the plot away. Suffice it to say that this is his homage to films where revved engines make up most of the soundtrack, like “Duel” and “The Vanishing Point,” which the characters attempt to emulate at one point. It might seem a little slower than “Planet Terror,” but in real grindhouses no one ever paid attention to presentation, so it makes sense to slap it on at the end.

Of course the films are really only a part of this three-hour homage to the world of the grindhouse theaters of the seventies. Both films are beautifully damaged with scratches, dirt, melted frames, missing frames, and over exposed sections to look like they’ve been played for years – they will ultimately look more authentic as times goes by. Missing reels are joyously announced, so we never find out if Vanessa Ferlito table dances for Kurt Russell, or what the significance is of Freddy Rodriguez being not just “Wray,” but “El Wray.”

The trailers are also brilliant. Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin appear in Rodriguez’s “Machete,” which is rumored to be a completed forty-minute work that will appear on the DVD. Rob Zombie contributed “Werewolf Women of the S.S.” staring Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu, Edgar Wright contributes “Don’t,” a satire of all the “Don’t...” films, and Eli Roth gives us a peak as a holiday slasher film, “Thanksgiving,” where the turkey isn’t the only one who has to worry about decapitation.

The film had a disappointing first weekend. I caught the last showing on Easter Sunday and there were barely 40 people in the giant theater. It’s fast paced fun that never lets up and worth seeing before the real scratches and dirt set in.

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