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Grindhouse gory and great

By David Gorman

Section: Arts

April 13, 2007

Grindhouse is one of the year's most widely talked about films. Splitting its time into two different segments, the film was written and directed by well known directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. At 191 minutes long, you certainly get what you paid for. As the film is split into two segments, this review will do the same.

The Spoiler-less Review:
The one liners were almost as good as the creative death sequences which were almost as good as the special effects which were ALMOST as good as the acting which came no where near the amount of gore OR excitement.

Now for the Spoiler-Filled Review:
As the bloody title of the new Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids, Sin City) Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill vol.1+2) panned across the screen, I felt a chill of excitement run down my spine. Grindhouse uses the residual memory of the low-budget, movie code-less double and even triple feature exploitation films giving homage worthy of even today's critics. Even before Planet Terror, Rodriguez's take on the infection/zombie genre, a preview for a (fake) Mexican exploitation film (also directed by Rodriguez), made the audience cheer with its clichd dialogue and violence. The same can be said for Planet Terror;

complete with discolorations, burn marks and missing reels, this action-packed almost plot-less zombie flick really hits the mark. Among Rodriguez's set of clichd zombie-movie characters are, Freddy Rodriguez (Can't Hardly Wait, Six Feet Under), a bad-ass hero of unknown origin accompanied by his go-go dancing, comedian aspiring ex-girlfriend played by Rose McGowan (who also stars in Death Proof) who trades in her leg for a machine gun/grenade launcher, the money driven mad scientist, the hard-ass sheriff, and of course, the military rapist. While the plot may be disjointed, and the scenes may be horrific, Planet Terror delivers exactly what Grindhouse audiences paid to see: unadulterated gore. The action is packed, the gore is grosser than ever (can I say severed penises?), and the comedy is out of sight, but what makes Planet Terror such a good grindhouse movie is because it isn't a good “movie” movie, which is why Tarantino's Death Proof got second billing, in order to turn Grindhouse into a “real” movie.

Of course there were fake trailers and commercials set between the two billings, but in order to keep the surprise, I'll just say that guest directors Rob Zombie (Werewolf Women of the S.S.), Edgar Wright (Don't), and Eli Roth (Thanksgiving) do incredible jobs at recreating the other lost genres of exploitation movies within their three minute time periods.

As the audience re-settled in for Tarantino's crack at strong women with fast cars movie, Death Proof, we gore fans started to murmur and debate if Tarantino could possibly top Planet Terror. Set in what looks like the 70's, but is actually the present (thanks to hints like text messaging) Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell (Escape from L.A, Big Trouble in Little China), kills women with his “Death Proof” car. We fear Russell, with his skull-laden muscle car and mysterious scar running down the left side of his face, as he stalks the strong, independent, Foxy Brown type, Tarantino style of heroine around a bar. Slow-moving but entertaining, Death Proof ends its fist act with a fantastically shot death sequence in which Russell drives over the heroine-filled car, replaying the death sequence from each girls' perspective. Gruesome and anticipated, this would be the last bit of action until the final scenes of the film. Cut to the zombie-filled hospital from Planet Terror (only before the infection hits) with Stuntman Mike being healed before going after his next set of prey, four, considerably stronger stunt-women out for a dangerous test-drive. Once the movie switches heroines, so does our view of Stuntman Mike as the women are more dangerous than he is, playing “ships mast” by holding onto the hood of a fast-moving car just for fun. After Tarantino's prototypical “dialogue in a diner” scene (which I could watch for hours), he finally delivers the fast-cars, hot-chicks car chase we were all waiting for. After surviving the encounter, and grazing Stuntman Mike with a bullet, the girls see that only his car is Death Proof and decide to go after him with a 2×4 metal rod. Symbolizing the entrance of exploitation into modern film, the car chase moves onto the highway as the muscle cars swerve and speed past the public, obeying the speed limit and driving in their lanes. The audience cheered and whistled as Death Proof ended with a montage of women punching a Stuntman Mike in the face, showing “The End” after the women simultaneously jump for joy, a perfect ending to Tarantino's killer cars and killer women flick. Tarantino is a movie nerd to the core, and it shows as the quality of film changes through the movie, ridding us of the fake burn marks and discolorations before the car chase, while keeping the grindhouse feel of real action sequences and yet another missing reel.

Conclusion: Go see it. These two are directorial geniuses that have decided to use their talents to remake the exploitation genre into something considerably more artistic, meaningful, and REALLY expensive! Due to today's greater acceptance of “exploitation” as a genre, Rodriguez and Tarantino were able to get big actors and even bigger explosions to reenact and reinvent a forgotten and often laughed at genre. The trailers and commercials presented between the two features really made me glad I saw it in theaters as people yelled, cheered, laughed and screamed together making it an amazing movie experience. The only way these two bad-ass-auteurs could have made the experience surrounding Grindhouse more realistic would be to allow children and smoking in theaters, but I guess that kind of movie experience died out with the original grindhouse.

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