Author Topic: Death Proof  (Read 4119 times)

Najemikon

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Death Proof
« on: June 15, 2008, 07:51:27 PM »
Death Proof
4 out of 5


It's taken me a long time to get to this. Although critically it was highly praised, it never seemed a true success, supported by the comments on this very forum. I started to think maybe Quentin Tarantino was having his first stumble and it put me off. Actually I believe this film was far from a stumble and is a great success, though perhaps not in the way it was designed to be.

Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a serial killer who stalks women and then kills them using his "death proof" car. That's about it! As a grindhouse homage the plot is suitably light.

The screenplay though immediately aims for something more substantial. Playful, manipulative and full of memorable moments, it's an absolute triumph. I know a lot complained about this supposedly boring effort, but many screenwriters would give up valuable limbs to be able to produce stuff like this. Ok, his trademark dialogue in the first half is not full of classic lines like those in Pulp Fiction, but the attitude and flow is just as well judged. I found nothing to complain about and plenty to praise. My favourite type of writing is where things are left to the imagination and he does this brilliantly, with just about no exposition so far as I could tell. That should be applauded. Not knowing who the girls are for about 20 minutes; the wonderful moment with the text message; Kurt Russell's brilliant John Wayne impersonation ("you're going in the book!"); and his admission about just how death proof his car really is... all bloody fantastic. Boring, my arse.

And of course, what's doubly brilliant is that it aspires to no higher a target than Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho...
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He definitely makes a mistake in the second half by not at least building on what he achieved in the first. The pacing goes very flat, though I did appreciate the change in tone of the dialogue. I've heard actors before praise him for writing characters that fit their strengths and I'm sure that's what happened here. I also loved the black and white moment; hidden behind nothing more than a gimmick to fit in with the grindhouse effect, was a wonderful visual trick. We see Mike teasing the girls and it's pretty routine, but when it switches back to colour, the contrast was wonderful. Who knew he was hiding a bright yellow cheerleader? :drooling:

So if that was certainly a flawed section, the finale more than makes up for it. The stunt work is magnificent and kudos to Tarantino for trusting Zoe Bell with a proper character. Albeit herself, there's never any need for doubles and the "Ship's Mast" works all the more for it. This marvellous car chase deserves to mentioned alongside the classics he obviously aspires to.

Overall I found that this was perhaps too much of a straightforward movie. It is very good in it's own right and in the end, I found the efforts to make it grindhouse material too distracting, unlike Planet Terror which thrived on the approach. I'd like to see the two together, but for now I regard Death Proof as a genuine pleasure in it's own right. And he's given us a truly classic character in Stuntman Mike, who Russell obviously relished and found time to even give him a development...
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Perhaps Tarantino's first mistake is asking the audience to trust him. Back in 1960 no-one knew what to expect with Psycho, but they not only know what to expect from Tarantino, they pretty much demand it. If you don't agree with his approach then yes, the first half is a boring waste of time, but it's a shame to miss out on a good film because what you assumed would be there isn't. The same sort of thing happened with Jackie Brown and I've always found it odd. Each of his films has been different from the others, so why should anyone be disappointed that the new one isn't the same as the old. Actually it also happened with Kill Bill 2 as that was a different tone to part 1.

This film for me affirms his status as one of the most important players in Hollywood. I really wish it had been a bigger success, because I would hate for him to be compromised. The way he employs old school actors and -in this case at least- stunt people, gives a leg up to new ones (see the featurette), classic music (I have to get the soundtrack!), refuses to use CGI and each of his movies finds a new angle to explore. What's not to like?

 :thumbup:

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2008, 12:03:23 AM »
This film for me affirms his status as one of the most important players in Hollywood. I really wish it had been a bigger success, because I would hate for him to be compromised.
If he is the most important player in Hollywood now I can understand why they can't do anything else than remake and cliché movies. Never understand the appeal of this unoriginal director  ::)

P.S : I know that we will not agree on this  :P

Offline Achim

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2008, 06:21:19 AM »
I like Tarantino's films. Not only the ones he directed (Jackie Brown being the weakest of that lot; as far as I am concerned that hotel film doesn't exist), but also the ones he wrote (especially True Romance, Natural Born Killers not that much; I blame Stone for the latter).

Having said that, I agree with Jon. I also very much enjoyed watching Death Proof. O.k., maybe the "Tarantino style" dialog is getting a little old now, but I still like listening to people talking like that. Once through all the story (I guess the first half can be considered the set-up for Mike's character) and development we are treated to one of the most exciting car chases in years!

(click to show/hide)

Offline goodguy

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2008, 07:00:59 AM »
Ok, his trademark dialogue in the first half is not full of classic lines like those in Pulp Fiction, ...
If you watch Tarantino for his strange dialogue and his postmodern take on genre, you really should try Hal Hartley - maybe starting with Amateur and Simple Men. Personally, I find him far superior to Tarantino. Of course, he is still an indie film maker, and not "one of the most important players in Hollywood".
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2008, 10:25:10 AM »
 :laugh:

Jimmy, "unoriginal"? Tch. :P I know you've said before you didn't like Death Proof, but it surprises me that you don't like Tarantino at all. I know you've said that before too, but I find it strange. He seems determined to use crew and genres that are marginalised by the rest of Hollywood, which is my core reason for saying he's an important player. If you're old, black, past it, whatever, chances are he'll give you a job and make you look bloody good. John Travolta, Robert Forster, Pam Grier and now Kurt Russell's looking cool again with a character no other director would have given him. Surely the sort of genres you follow and the people involved benefit from such attention? Even if you don't like the result, isn't the effort important?

I hate to tell you, but I stumbled on an interview the other day where he's considering Swedish erotica as his next effort!  ??? Just so long as it doesn't interfere with Inglorious Bastards...

Thanks for pointing out Hal Hartley, Matthias. I'll look him up. The thing I like about Tarantino's style of dialogue is the rhythm, which is why I'm not so fussed about particular lines not standing out. In Martin Scorcese's Century of Cinema, he talks about how the Gangster film developed from the Musical, and how the dialogue would have an unreal sing-song quality about it. It's no accident that James Cagney was a dancer before a gangster! He also showed a scene from Force of Evil (I think...) and it was almost like poetry. Like Achim, I love that style and Tarantino is a master of it.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2008, 02:20:44 PM »
:laugh:

Jimmy, "unoriginal"? Tch. :P I know you've said before you didn't like Death Proof, but it surprises me that you don't like Tarantino at all. I know you've said that before too, but I find it strange. He seems determined to use crew and genres that are marginalised by the rest of Hollywood, which is my core reason for saying he's an important player. If you're old, black, past it, whatever, chances are he'll give you a job and make you look bloody good. John Travolta, Robert Forster, Pam Grier and now Kurt Russell's looking cool again with a character no other director would have given him. Surely the sort of genres you follow and the people involved benefit from such attention? Even if you don't like the result, isn't the effort important?

I hate to tell you, but I stumbled on an interview the other day where he's considering Swedish erotica as his next effort!  ??? Just so long as it doesn't interfere with Inglorious Bastards...
This is the reasons why I don't like him : He can't come with an original idea, everything he do is stole from some previous director work. Some name that hommage but for me it's only stealing other people work. Why would I want to watch Kill Bill when I can watch a seventies asian movie with Reiko Ike? Why watch any other of his film when I can find the same story in previous one?

His use of veteran actors doesn't interest me at all, since it's just another way for him to be pretentious. If I want to watch those veteran I prefer to watch them at their best and in good movie : Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown,...), Robert Forster (Vigilante), Kurt Russel (The Thing, Escape from New York or Big Trouble in Little China), John Travolta (is he really a good actor?) and you can do the same thing with everyone of these actors.

Why would I want to watch is idea of a "grindhouse" film when I can watch the original ones everytime I want too?

Now he want to copy the Swedish sexploitation movie  ::) sorry I couldn't care less. The original product is there, it's better than everything he can do and, more important, he will never get the studios ok for this... Too much nudity for Hollywood or the US theaters.

Sorry Jon, I don't like the guy. But I will concede that True Romance is a good movie because Tony Scott had directed it and the story is not so bad. 

Najemikon

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2008, 10:06:27 PM »
Well, I have to say... I prefer Kill Bill to the films it supposedly steals from. A richer story, better acting, kick ass action and a fantastic soundtrack. Ooh, and an Anime bit! :P It's fantastic stuff.

But hey, you don't like it, you prefer the originals, no problem. I can see that, I can understand that. But no way can I let the idea slide that his use of veteran actors/crew is pretentious. Hollywood is still a racist, sexist, money led industry, and here we have someone writing lead parts for old people and some of them are black! And female! On paper that's suicide according to the average studio executive (what do I know, of course. I base this research on the fact there have been no more parts since), so he doesn't have the luxury of being pretentious. Arrogant, maybe... ;) He's got a grindhouse spirit working with big money.

I'm not sure how genuine the sex flick idea is. I saw it in one interview and it was about a year old. I wouldn't put it past him to be a wind-up.

Interesting all the attention has come to Death Proof and none for Planet Terror. So anyway, what's your opinion on Rodriguez? Also a self-styled "guerilla" filmmaker.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2008, 10:30:38 PM »
Interesting all the attention has come to Death Proof and none for Planet Terror. So anyway, what's your opinion on Rodriguez? Also a self-styled "guerilla" filmmaker.
Don't have an oppinion on him, since I haven't watch a lot of his works. In fact the only movies of him that I've seen are "The Faculty" (that I've not really like) and "From Dusk Till Dawn" that is not so bad, not great or original but a good time waster. To continue on the same vain : Tarantino is worst as an actor than as a director  :P

For what I've read "El Mariachi" looks like a good film and a very impressive debut for a director.

But more important he is the director of the Spy Kids movies  :tease:

Najemikon

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2008, 10:47:23 PM »
For what I've read "El Mariachi" looks like a good film and a very impressive debut for a director.

But more important he is the director of the Spy Kids movies  :tease:

Don't hold that against him!  :laugh: El Mariachi is excellent and his quick remake of Desperado isn't bad either. The R2 DVD is well worth having because it's got both of them on and also his "10 Minute Film School" which is an excellent little guide on how to make a movie when you haven't got any money. Subsequent instalments on other titles have demonstrated he is a very talented musician and can bang out a film score in a few minutes. Before Planet Terror he did Sin City, of course, and much as I liked it, I was very worried he was going to disappear inside a computer and never come out!

And no argument from me. Tarantino is a bloody awful actor... :yucky:

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2008, 12:04:14 AM »
Before Planet Terror he did Sin City, of course, and much as I liked it, I was very worried he was going to disappear inside a computer and never come out!
I have one movie called Sin City in my collection, but certainly not the same one  :laugh:


I place "El Mariachi" on my wishlist and I will try to order it somewhere this summer. I'm always interested to find "new" director who can works without a tons of money.

Najemikon

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 12:47:13 AM »
I have one movie called Sin City in my collection, but certainly not the same one  :laugh:


 :hysterical:

Offline dfmorgan

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2012, 12:34:04 PM »
Mr. Tarantino says that this is his worst film here.
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Offline Achim

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Re: Death Proof
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2012, 02:59:03 AM »
Mr. Tarantino says that this is his worst film here.
But he also said it's still not a bad film, and if that is is worst than he seems o be oing o.k... Tarantino being Tarantino I guess.

Apparently he also talked about retiring, a subject that may interest others :laugh: Although it was not bout retiring now, just before he looses his energy, so his filmography stays relatively clean.

The full uncle sorted interview at The Hollywood Reporter.