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The F*cking Black Sheep: Death Proof (2007)

2 years agoby: Ryan Doom

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.

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+0
1:57PM on 04/12/2013

Disagree

Its not QT's best by any means but I love this movie. I'll watch it over Jackie Brown any day of the week.
Its not QT's best by any means but I love this movie. I'll watch it over Jackie Brown any day of the week.
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+0
1:34PM on 02/15/2013
I think it does capture the essence of Grindhouse movies pretty damn well. At least the ones that I've seen.. There's usually long stretches where not much happens because they didn't have a budget so they filled it with dialogue and shit. Personally I like Death Proof a lot and I don't think it's Tarantinos worst movie.
I think it does capture the essence of Grindhouse movies pretty damn well. At least the ones that I've seen.. There's usually long stretches where not much happens because they didn't have a budget so they filled it with dialogue and shit. Personally I like Death Proof a lot and I don't think it's Tarantinos worst movie.
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+0
12:00AM on 02/15/2013
"Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever made," Tarantino admitted in a roundtable conversation with The Hollywood Reporter. "And for a left-handed movie, that wasn't so bad, all right? So if that's the worst I ever get, I'm good. But I do think one of those out-of-touch, old, limp, flaccid-d!@k movies costs you three good movies as far as your rating is concerned."

If even the director is agreeing with your opinion, I'm not too sure it's going against the majority's.
"Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever made," Tarantino admitted in a roundtable conversation with The Hollywood Reporter. "And for a left-handed movie, that wasn't so bad, all right? So if that's the worst I ever get, I'm good. But I do think one of those out-of-touch, old, limp, flaccid-d!@k movies costs you three good movies as far as your rating is concerned."

If even the director is agreeing with your opinion, I'm not too sure it's going against the majority's.
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9:56PM on 02/14/2013
I only can watch this starting at the first murders. The first group annoy so much it almost kills the movie. After that it's smooth sailings.
I only can watch this starting at the first murders. The first group annoy so much it almost kills the movie. After that it's smooth sailings.
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-1
3:21PM on 02/14/2013

Nothing to back it up with?

Shocked not to see any examples given in such an essay. I hold it in the bottom of the Tarantino barrel as well, but to say in either cut that the dialogue to action ratio isn't of close or equal value to that of BASTERDS or even PULP FICTION, JACKIE BROWN or VOL. 2 I feel is unjustly looked over. True the action is all lumped together, but this is technically his "hangout" movie, to the likes of DAZED or GRAFFITI. As far as its inspirations, are we missing "DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY", The Bob
Shocked not to see any examples given in such an essay. I hold it in the bottom of the Tarantino barrel as well, but to say in either cut that the dialogue to action ratio isn't of close or equal value to that of BASTERDS or even PULP FICTION, JACKIE BROWN or VOL. 2 I feel is unjustly looked over. True the action is all lumped together, but this is technically his "hangout" movie, to the likes of DAZED or GRAFFITI. As far as its inspirations, are we missing "DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY", The Bob Rafelson files, even BADLANDS and BREATHLESS which have been argued to teeter on the edges of GRINDHOUSE (sorry if you disagree, but I tend to take Pauline Khael, Amy Taubin and Stephen Holden's words a bit stronger). Also, has anyone that's ready to crumble this film, completely example and reference free, actually sat through VANISHING POINT? Janusz Kaminski just did a play by play of that film at UCLA with heavy comparisons to DEATH PROOF. I feel like this is a common thought amongst Tarantino geeks, but why not take the time to do a little research, a few reasons why opposed to just "clever" (carefully quoted) bashes. Why no positive thoughts or common trends (I never hear anything about the Acuna Boys or Jungle Julia's WOMEN IN CAGES/OF THE AVOCADO JUNGLE motifs), just straight bashing. Why not put some time into it, instead of a soulless rant? I agree that it's not the best, which is why I don't keep it much in the below....but I took my time at least.

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+9
2:47PM on 02/14/2013
Is this really a Black Sheep opinion? Don't most people agree that this is Tarantino's worst film? I've never heard anyone rave about how great it was and the film, combined with Planet Terror, was a travesty at the box office. I think positive opinion for the film is in the minority, though I personally enjoyed it.
Is this really a Black Sheep opinion? Don't most people agree that this is Tarantino's worst film? I've never heard anyone rave about how great it was and the film, combined with Planet Terror, was a travesty at the box office. I think positive opinion for the film is in the minority, though I personally enjoyed it.
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2:47PM on 02/14/2013
I don't think there really is a black sheep for this movie. This is easily Tarantino's most divided film with its audience. I personally love it but I know that there are just as many people who hate it.
I don't think there really is a black sheep for this movie. This is easily Tarantino's most divided film with its audience. I personally love it but I know that there are just as many people who hate it.
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2:47PM on 02/14/2013

I actually think Planet Terror is nearly unwatchable now

and initially I hated Death Proof, but I've really found a love for it, boring-ass-bits and all. If nothing else, that damn car chase is still the best chase ever.
and initially I hated Death Proof, but I've really found a love for it, boring-ass-bits and all. If nothing else, that damn car chase is still the best chase ever.
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2:42PM on 02/14/2013

Comme Ci, Comme Ca, Cum Again

Overall, I dig DEATH PROOF. Kurt Russell, f**kin' epic car stunts, interesting narrative flow, solid end. I watch a shit ton of weird cult grindhouse flicks and some of them definitely suffer from being dialogue heavy. So, if that's what he was going for, nailed it. I mostly like Tarantino's dialogue but I'd be lying if I said the pacing couldn't have been improved by whittling down the back and forth. I agree and disagree about the budget. There's no way DEATH PROOF is a steaming pile though.
Overall, I dig DEATH PROOF. Kurt Russell, f**kin' epic car stunts, interesting narrative flow, solid end. I watch a shit ton of weird cult grindhouse flicks and some of them definitely suffer from being dialogue heavy. So, if that's what he was going for, nailed it. I mostly like Tarantino's dialogue but I'd be lying if I said the pacing couldn't have been improved by whittling down the back and forth. I agree and disagree about the budget. There's no way DEATH PROOF is a steaming pile though.
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+0
2:18PM on 02/14/2013
Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. Tarantino´s part was a fucking, dissapointing borefest and Rodriguez part was so damn silly and ridiculous that it was more of a grindhouse spoof than an homage.
Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. Tarantino´s part was a fucking, dissapointing borefest and Rodriguez part was so damn silly and ridiculous that it was more of a grindhouse spoof than an homage.
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2:15PM on 02/14/2013

I Loved Death Proof

Lets not forget that there are two versions of this bad boy out there, the original and the extended cut. I was in Iraq when the original Grindhouse hit theatres so I only got to see a bootleg copy. When I returned I purchased the stand alone films which were waaaaay better, and included the awesome lap dance scene that the original desperatly needed.I thought this movie was awesome. I guess Im partial because I love Kurt Russell so damn much and the fact that it featured 2 of my top 5 cars of
Lets not forget that there are two versions of this bad boy out there, the original and the extended cut. I was in Iraq when the original Grindhouse hit theatres so I only got to see a bootleg copy. When I returned I purchased the stand alone films which were waaaaay better, and included the awesome lap dance scene that the original desperatly needed.I thought this movie was awesome. I guess Im partial because I love Kurt Russell so damn much and the fact that it featured 2 of my top 5 cars of all time, the 70 Nova and the 69 Charger. The Girls were sexy as hell, but QT did go a bit over the top with the foot thing. The soundtrack rocked and was very original, featuring music I had never heard before but instantly fell in love with. I also loved thelocations, but again Im partial because I live in the Austin area and frequent the Texas Chili Parlor from the film. I can undestand that some people didnt like it or didnt get it, and I totally respect that, It all opinion anyways and we are all entitled to one.
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+7
2:06PM on 02/14/2013

Loved it!

Deathproof is one of my favorite Tarantino movies! How can one complain about too much talking when Tarintino is one of the best dialogue writers to come along in years. The film is paced, balanced and nuanced. What were people expecting, Smokey and the Bandit? Christine?
Deathproof is one of my favorite Tarantino movies! How can one complain about too much talking when Tarintino is one of the best dialogue writers to come along in years. The film is paced, balanced and nuanced. What were people expecting, Smokey and the Bandit? Christine?
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1:45PM on 02/14/2013
The first half i really liked, at least stunt man mike was engaging conversation with the women, the car wreck was amazing as well. But then the second half we got to see 4 women talk about nothing and mike turn into the biggest pussy. I hated how stunt man was built up to be something he really wasn't
The first half i really liked, at least stunt man mike was engaging conversation with the women, the car wreck was amazing as well. But then the second half we got to see 4 women talk about nothing and mike turn into the biggest pussy. I hated how stunt man was built up to be something he really wasn't
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2:47PM on 02/14/2013
To put my own mind at ease, I say the second half of DP was Stuntman Mike's brother, Stuntman Bob.
To put my own mind at ease, I say the second half of DP was Stuntman Mike's brother, Stuntman Bob.
1:34PM on 02/14/2013

Love Death Proof

Not close to QT's best but still very QT. Great music, characters and the best car chase in movie history (sorry French Connection, Bullitt and Vanishing Point).
Not close to QT's best but still very QT. Great music, characters and the best car chase in movie history (sorry French Connection, Bullitt and Vanishing Point).
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12:15PM on 02/14/2013

What?

Isn't this supposed to be opinions that aren't very popular. Pretty sure most people agreed with what you said. I do not., however. I love this one.
Isn't this supposed to be opinions that aren't very popular. Pretty sure most people agreed with what you said. I do not., however. I love this one.
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10:45AM on 02/14/2013

F*ckin' Spot On!!

'Grindhouse' was a HUGE disappointment and you're absolutely right about the budget; it made no sense. I expected as much crap out of Rodriguez right down to the title which sounds like a 50's sci-fi stinker, not a zombie flick. But Tarantino managed to fit a careers worth of mistakes into one movie and for that maybe we should be grateful. A pretty great car chase wrapped in a turd burrito with smegma sauce is not what we needed or what Grindhouse was supposed to be about. And Zoe Bell, while
'Grindhouse' was a HUGE disappointment and you're absolutely right about the budget; it made no sense. I expected as much crap out of Rodriguez right down to the title which sounds like a 50's sci-fi stinker, not a zombie flick. But Tarantino managed to fit a careers worth of mistakes into one movie and for that maybe we should be grateful. A pretty great car chase wrapped in a turd burrito with smegma sauce is not what we needed or what Grindhouse was supposed to be about. And Zoe Bell, while being a great Fall Girl, can't act her way out of a wet Carl's Jr. bag. The trailers rocked though.
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10:18AM on 02/14/2013

hate to agree...but i do

Def Tarantino's worst. this movie was downright boring. i've given it multiple reviewings to wait for it to click with me... but its just so freakin' boring.
Def Tarantino's worst. this movie was downright boring. i've given it multiple reviewings to wait for it to click with me... but its just so freakin' boring.
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