There are few things as fetching as a bruised ego on a beautiful angel.
Death Proof is directed and written by Quentin Tarantino. It's part of a double feature production that Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released as Grindhouse. With Rodriguez contributing Planet Terror. Death Proof tells of a psychopathic stunt man played by Kurt Russell who stalks pretty young ladies and then murders them by way of road accidents caused by his "death proofed" stunt car. Joining Russell in the cast are Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rose McGowan.
Many trials and tribulations followed the release of the Grindhouse project; poor opening weekend, two film's meant to be together ultimately separated on disc, with different cuts etc etc. It's all rather boorish in truth and really both Death Proof and Planet Terror stand up on their own two feet even if the whole "Grindhouse" homage" is somewhat lost in home viewing. So on to Death Proof, a film that finds Tarantino on deliciously agreeable form. Delivering a chicksploitation psycho killer piece that bubbles nicely under the surface to then explode into one of the most thrilling finales in recent times.
Now in its longer cut, Death Proof is split into two parts. The first part has one group of girls (Poitier, Ladd & Ferlito) out in Austin, Texas, celebrating the birthday of one of them. It's here we are introduced to Stuntman Mike (a terrific Russell), who is stalking them. For this first half there's lots of talk and relationship posers plotting away. It's a slow build, and in light of QT's pre release promise of 200mph thrills, it may lose some viewers hungry for action and murder death kill from the off. But hang in there, listen to the dialogue, get to know the characters, particularly the girls (how often do we get to know victims in slashers eh?), and then bang! Pay off number one as carnage is unleashed in multi-angles and action replays. A memorable blood show played out to the awesome drum beats of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch's pop classic Hold Tight.
Part two. And our second group of girls, an aesthetically pleasing bunch that contains Zoë Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thoms & Rosario Dawson. Again there's much talk, but oh what talk. These are girls I could sit and listen to for ever. This may not be QT's most quotable movie, but it isn't shy of coolness in the writing. Just sample the whole gun conversation as the camera revolves around the table, a sharp sharp moment in the film; all that's missing is a Madonna story, you know? Some may argue it's indulgent from the director, I say it's finding a director very relaxed and at one with his protect. Besides, it's a critical passage of play that's setting us up for the exhilarating climax as Bell (real life stunt-woman) straps herself to the bonnet of a speeding Dodge Challenger. What follows is ripping cinema, free of CGI and string work, not only does QT homage those car movies of the 70s he loves so much (Vanishing Point, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry et al), but he's also patting the back of the stunt-men and women who bring so many action moments to life. And as this long car chasing sequence raises the pulses, it starts to unravel that Death Proof is subverting the norm. Bravo boys and girls.
Hilarious, riotous, troubling, sexy and sleazy, Death Proof is unsurprisingly proving divisive. But I for one wouldn't be at all surprised if in ten years time it is regarded as being one of his best movies. The Grindhouse project may not have worked as a whole, but this portion on its own provides thrills and cheek in equal measure as Tarantino gets behind the wheel and takes us on one hell of a ride. Kicking soundtrack too! 9/10