THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Death Proof (2007)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
“Maybe Death Proof should have had more Stunt Man Mike and less chit chat from the future hosts of The View.”
Quentin Tarantino is a rare breed, one of few directors who can do about anything because not only is he a bit of badass, but he’s got a signature voice that just can’t be duplicated. How many others are out there like him? Scorsese? The Coen Brothers? Hitchcock? Oh, yeah, he’s dead. Regardless, no matter the genre, no matter the actor, Tarantino films always look and sound like something that the man with the cartoon chin created. I’ve been a fan since Reservoir Dogs hit the indie scene back in the day (I didn’t even know what indie scene was of course), but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t dropped a load yet. And while I’d love to dive into the mess that is Kill Bill, we’ve gathered today to discuss his largest steaming pile thus far: Death Proof.
Originally, I was damn excited for Death Proof. Back in 2007, it sure sounded like a dandy of an idea: two of the biggest independent directors of their generation joining forces to give the world a grindhouse experience (a subgenre defined in cheapness, trashiness, violence, and chaos) that only a handful of film nuts wanted. Not just one, but a double feature (Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is a much more entertaining flick) complete with fake trailers, over acting, gore, girls, guns, and guts on the highway. It’s too bad the idea was screwed from the beginning. What percentage of the population even knew what grindhouse even was? Apparently not enough, the thing died a fast death at the box office, earning around $27 million off a $67 million budget. Ouch.
You know, for a movie that supposedly captures the essence of the grindhouse films, Death Proof is a damn bore. It’s painfully dull. It does nothing but talk, talk, talk about absolutely nothing for nearly two hours. OK, so there’s a great lap dance scenario, a couple gruesome car crashes, and a badass chase sequence to conclude the thing, but everything in-between does…not…a…thing. Usually, Tarantino’s copyrighted and trademarked dialogue stands out, creating drama and intrigue to go along with the story. Here, it’s just a bunch of ladies yapping without reason. And maybe it’s because Death Proof essentially acts as Tarantino’s fetish film, where his noted love for all things feet gets amplified by the square root of 27 (I assume that’s a lot? Not a math guy). It seems like every four seconds there’s a shot of a foot or discussion foot massages. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but still.
I think the problem comes from no payoff. He gives us characters, kills a mess of them, then gives us another round of characters with no connection minus Stunt Man Mike, who ends up a giant disappoint after looking so f*cking cool to start with. I love some Kurt Russell, who has always been a bad ass when given the chance to be. Here, he’s nearly a memorable villain, but Tarantino doesn’t give him much to do. He sits around, stalks hot women, and then crashes his car into them only to live and kill more another day. What? Why? What the hell is he doing? Now I know this movie is supposed to cheap throwback where nothing really mattered, but even the shittiest of grindhouse at least had plots that sorta made sense. At least give him a moment, something to make us understand him. Without it, the movie doesn’t work.
But my biggest bitch about Death Proof comes from calling the project a grindhouse movie. I really love and appreciate that two directors of their status decided to make a couple of silly, over the top trash, but if they wanted to recreate what made those old movies work, why use a $67 million budget? Sure, sure, if someone gave them the cash why not use it, right? Death Proof looks too damn slick, too clean. The effects look too real. Everything shines, feeling too polished. Even the effect of beating up the footage to make things look snazzier felt cheap. It’s like Instagram for all us who want things to look cooler than they really are.
If they had made the movies for $10 mil or less, I think we would have got better stuff, or at least some shit that mirrored what inspired them. Let’s face it, the bigger the budget the less creative movies usually are. Keeps things cheap means having to get creative. Then again, maybe Death Proof should have had more Stunt Man Mike and less chit chat from the future hosts of The View.