Death by Quentin

DEATH PROOF Di­rected by Quentin Tarantino. Star­ring Kurt Rus­sell, Rosario Daw­son, Rose McGowan, Zoe Bell, Sid­ney Tamiia Poitier, Jor­dan Ladd, Vanessa Fer­l­ito, Tra­cie Thoms, Mary El­iz­a­beth Win­stead, Michael Parks, Quentin Tarantino 18 cert, gen re­lease, 11

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

SINCE com­plet­ing his first three movies (Reser­voir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown), Quentin Tarantino has done things by halves. He be­came so en­am­oured with all the footage he shot for his fourth film, Kill Bill, that he split it into two parts. His latest opus, Death Proof, be­gan life as an 87-minute pic­ture part­nered with Robert Ro­driguez’ Planet Ter­ror un­der the um­brella ti­tle of Grind­house, a dou­ble bill de­vised as a homage to 1970s B-movies. Since Grind­house tanked at the US box of­fice, the movies have been sep­a­rated, the ac­com­pa­ny­ing fake trail­ers dropped, and Tarantino over-gen­er­ously added 26 min­utes to his ef­fort for in­ter­na­tional re­lease.

Now run­ning al­most as long as some old dou­ble bills, Death Proof is a dou­ble fea­ture in it­self. A griz­zled Kurt Rus­sell plays the link­ing char­ac­ter, Stunt­man Mike, whose ca­reer pur­port­edly dates back to the 1960s TV west­ern se­ries The Vir­ginian. A malev­o­lent misog­y­nist, Mike spends his re­tire­ment tak­ing sadis­tic plea­sure in forc­ing women driv­ers off the road, even if this en­tails killing them.

He finds easy prey in the first half, when he en­coun­ters DJ Jun­gle Ju­lia (Tra­cie Thoms) and her equally foul-mouthed for­mer col­lege friends. They are bitch­ing over mar­gar­i­tas at the Texas Chili Par­lor in Austin, where Tarantino over­acts inanely in a loud cameo as the pro­pri­etor.

The sec­ond part is set 14 months later in Ten­nessee, as it as­sem­bles stunt­women work­ing on a cheer­leader movie. Th­ese women are much sassier and tougher than their Austin coun­ter­parts. In case we didn’t get that, they swear in­ces­santly through­out end­lessly ba­nal con­ver­sa­tions that are con­spic­u­ously short on Tarantino’s trade­mark witty di­a­logue.

His in­ner geek has taken over from the smart film-maker in this tire­some ex­er­cise that fi­nally sparks to life in the last reel, for an ex­pertly staged, ex­tended car chase that name-checks Van­ish­ing Point (1971) as its in­flu­ence and echoes Stunt­man Mike’s scorn for CGI ef­fects.

The pas­tiche works in such in­ci­den­tal de­tails as hav­ing a de­lib­er­ately scratchy, badly spliced print with a washed-out look and bla­tantly ob­vi­ous back pro­jec­tion. In other re­spects, the homage con­cept reg­is­ters as a hollow fail­ure. The B movies that in­spired Tarantino were leaner, tighter and driven by nar­ra­tive and ac­tion. Death Proof is merely ram­bling, vir­tu­ally plot­less in its wispy tales, and de­void of any ten­sion un­til the chase even­tu­ally gets un­der way.

The end­less con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the women are not re­motely in­ter­est­ing, un­less one wants to pass the time in count­ing the tor­rent of ex­ple­tives – which would have been un­think­able for any char­ac­ter, male of fe­male, to use back in 1970s B movies.

The pro­duc­tion and cos­tume de­sign sug­gest an in­de­ter­mi­nate set­ting for the movie, which pe­cu­liarly jum­bles pe­riod trap­pings with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy such as mo­bile phones and text mes­sag­ing.

The juke­box in the bar plays vinyl 45s, which is ac­cept­able as a retro fetish, and as ever, Tarantino delves into his record col­lec­tion to layer the sound­track with a juke­box of old sin­gles ( Jeep­ster, Baby It’s You and, most ef­fec­tively, Bri­tish quin­tet Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’s Hold Tight) and seg­ments from En­nio Mor­ri­cone and Bernard Herrmann.

The B movies of a by­gone era were of­ten trashy in an amus­ing sense, but Tarantino’s dis­mally dis­ap­point­ing Death Proof is trashy in the worst pos­si­ble sense of the word.

Start your en­gines: Zoë Bell, Tra­cie Thoms, Rosario Daw­son and Mary El­iz­a­beth Win­stead in Death Proof

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