Movie: “Death Proof” — the footprints of a movie

11 08 2010

As part of the Grindhouse experiment, Tarantino made the movie “Death Proof“. So it has a cheap story, persons are mostly disgusting, and lots of violence. It has a few positive properties, which could convince you to waste two hours on this movie.

"Death Proof" -- poster

"Death Proof" -- poster

Short Résumé

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) visits a roadside bar, and meets some young women. When the girls leave the bar and take off in  their economy-size car, Mike leaves in his rugged car, with another girl in the front passenger seat. He describes his car as “death proof”, meaning that the car will protect him in case of a serious crash. The events of this night end by Mike running his car head-on into the girls’ car, killing them and his passenger. Some time later, Mike tries to make another car with three girls crash, but they turn out to be his match. The film end by the girls causing Mike to  crash with his car, while the girls are unharmed.

The context

Grindhouse movies should be about cheap violence, and this is what Tarantino offers. Senseless violence for its own sake. The two episodes indicated in the résumé are shaped to lead up to violent deaths or accidents, where the man (Mike) intentionally tries to kill the girls, without any reasons other than for his own satisfaction.

It is not as silly as the convoluted companion grindhouse movie — “Planet Terror” by Robert Rodriguez — but there is nothing believable in the storyline.

"Death Proof" -- Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike

"Death Proof" -- Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike

It does break some expectations, though. One expects that women would be beautiful but stupid, passive and helpless victims of violence. The women in first episode behave in a way that in ordinary circumstances would be called self-confident, so in this way they are not completely helpless as persons. In the second episode, the women take charge, and play the same game as stuntman Mike, and are finally better at it than him. So there the women can be said to be the stronger sex.

When watching this movie, I looked for something that would reveal the hand of Tarantino. It took a long time to really detect anything that fell outside the frame of expectations of looking at a cheap B-movie. But there is one scene which is not what you would typically see in an old B-movie about psychopaths. This is in the beginning of the second episode, where the girls are sitting in a bar by the road, and for a rather long time they are just talking to each other. This is where a “Tarantino touch” revels itself. Their dialogue is as independent of the main storyline as the arguments and discussions between Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and  Vincent Vega (John Travolta) in “Pulp Fiction“, where they for instance have that extended debate about  McDonald’s in France and the  “Royale with Cheese”. The topic that the girls raise, and the way they argue, that is as refreshingly different as the debates in “Pulp Fiction“.

"Death Proof" -- The first episode: the girls at the cafe

"Death Proof" -- The first episode: the girls at the roadside bar

One could have imagined a different movie based on the same one-liner as “Death Proof”. It could have been a movie that tried to be a bit more serious, that explored the social game between the participants, where explicit violence would be the visible effects of social confrontations. That Tarantino movie is not yet here. So we are stuck with this grindhouse version, for better and for worse.

Conclusion

Seen as a thriller, “Death Proof” is not intellectually challenging. You can watch it for the car chases and car crashes, but there is little else that speaks in favour of this movie. Unless you want to spend nearly two hours to find the little bits and pieces that makes you say: “Yeah, that was  a Tarantino effect!”

Data

Death Proof”  (2007). Directed by: Quentin Tarantino; written by: Quentin Tarantino;  starring: Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd; length: 114 min; (Movie at imdb)

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