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Film Review: Death Proof

Even with all the fake scratches, the added-on start to the film, the jumps in film, the loops of a small section, the black and white scene, the bad sound – this is still a good-looking movie. What it is not is a good movie. This is a shame, because you hope for more from Quentin Tarantino.

This could be due to Quentin himself; he certainly gives good talk, chatting up his desire to only make the best movie he can make, that it has to be a great version of the genre it is in, the passion he has for cinema in all its form, the understanding he brings. This is infectious and inspires belief in the product. However, his decision to make this film – a homage? A pastiche? Inspired by? – based on his enjoyment of the grindhouse flicks of his youth seems out of step with his words. This film isn’t cashing the cheques his mouth is writing, as it were.

If you haven’t seen the film, you may think that it is supposed to be about cars and old-school car chases. It isn’t. It’s a film about girls talking. And talking. And talking. The actresses all do a great job on the dialogue, smoothly delivering the long discussions and Tarantino-talk, in that filmic style that he has set in place since Reservoir Dogs. The content of the dialogue, however, isn’t up to much. It’s girls talking about the sort of stuff Tarantino thinks girls talk about in the manner of his previous films (I remember an interview where he boasted of a female friend telling him that the conversations were exactly the same as her girlfriends, and how he thought that was great praise – er, no, Quentin, it isn’t). There are a few funny lines (actually by Kurt Russell as the wonderfully named Stuntman Mike) but this isn’t the great dialogue of his first three films.

The story isn’t particularly absorbing either. The first half sees three girls talk a lot in a car, then talk a lot in a bar, stalked by Stuntman Mike, who follows them out at the end of the night and crashes into them (in a scene viewed in several speeds and from different angles), with the alibi of him being sober and the girls being drunk and stoned. The film cuts to later, where we meet some new girls, who talk a lot in a different car, then talk a lot in a diner (in an admittedly well-done single take), then chased by Stuntman Mike before turning the tables and chasing him. We’re not talking a fascinating narrative here. It was a strange experience – being bored in a Tarantino film, wondering when anything is going to happen.

There are some good things. The performances of the major characters are good. Russell is great – there is a great moment in the film, where he gives a great look straight to the camera, a grin on his face, when you both realise what is happening next – and the girls do a good job (even Zoe Bell, Uma Thurman’s stunt double on Kill Bill, does a good job as herself in the film). QT shoots the whole affair with his usual skill – I may not have the hard-on for cars and car chases that he and others have, but you know you’re not watching a shitty, low budget, ‘70s B-movie, even if that is the idea. And the final payoff made me laugh like an idiot, which was nearly enough to make up for the previous two hours.

These things don’t make up for the poor things. Firstly, Quentin should not be allowed to be on screen – to be frank, he’s not an attractive chap, with his huge forehead, funny chin and cavernous mouth. And his acting doesn’t really qualify as acting. Then there’s the feeling of inactivity the film exudes. There is no sense of tension or drama to keep the film’s momentum. Once the car chase comes along, things pick up but it depends on how much you like looking at close-ups of beaten-up cars driving fast down a Californian road. And please quit it with the foot fetish thing already – it’s like he read about Hitchcock putting his sexual preferences into his films, making him an auteur, so he has to do the same. The bizarrest poor aspect was the referencing of car films within the film; normally, QT will bore everyone in interviews with all the films he has seen and which ones are the best for the type of thing he is doing in the film – here, he has the characters say it, not once but twice. That’s just lazy.

I hope Quentin enjoys this film and thinks it’s worthy to be part of his canon, because I didn’t. An uninteresting disappointment – I wonder what it was like when it was still part of Grindhouse

Rating: DA

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