Okay so now that I’ve gotten over the Weinsteins cutting up Grindhouse, I can get down to appreciating the ‘extended version’ of Tarantino’s half of the double bill concept, Death Proof.
Like most Tarantino, Death Proof is a love letter to movies of yore, and this try-hard b-grade throwback to trashy 70s movies certainly succeeds on that level. Whilst we may have had the ‘missing scenes’ reinserted, there are enough artefacts on the film, missing frames and dodgy edits to make the deliberately amateurish concept enjoyable.
It’s not hard to see how Tarantino had previously cut 24 minutes out of this feature. Like all of his work, it’s stubbornly bloated and tiresome, with some entire scenes serving no other purpose than letting Quentin marvel at his own dialogue. Tarantino overwrites in a similar fashion to Stephen King, except for the fact that King’s much better at it. For the first half hour, Death Proof’s running on attitude alone. We spend a lot of time getting to know a bunch of good lookin’ lasses on a road trip. Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier), Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd) would seem to be in their twenties, yet all talk like a bunch of 14 year olds. This is the biggest problem with Death Proof – Tarantino can’t write for women. I’m not sure if he was attempting to channel some of the tamer movies of the era, but it seems strange that they are all so obsessed with ‘making out’ with boys. The same problem surfaces in the second half of the film, where we meet Zoe (Zoë Bell), Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), except their ramblings are a little more entertaining.
I can’t heap enough praise on Zoë Bell. Up until now she’s been a stunt double for the likes of Uma Thurman (Kill Bill) and Lucy Lawless (‘Xena: Warrior Princess’), but here she effectively plays herself. Right at the end, when Death Proof finally kicks in, her stunt work is jaw dropping. I’m sure it wasn’t quite as dangerous as it looks, but it’s still f*cking awesome. Surely her career will sky rocket as a result, and even more welcome is the fact that she’s a pretty good actress also.
For all its dud scripting and dull patches, Death Proof is pretty fun, and easily more enjoyable than Jackie Brown or Kill Bill: Vol 2. Tarantino fans will see it regardless of the critical response, though it will probably be a little too self-indulgent for most.Rating: