Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: Grindhouse (Film)Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Stracy Wilson
By the mid 1990s, Mayor Giuliani had already begun his mission to clean up Times Square. A few porn theaters and peep shows remained (Show World Center hadn’t yet been turned into a comedy club), but the remnants of the world depicted in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver were swept away. Grindhouse (Dimension Films), the new double feature from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino is not a “perfect” cinematic experience by any means, nor is it suited to all tastes. That being said, it was still a ton of fun to watch.
The film begins with a phony trailer (directed by Rodriguez) featuring Danny Trejo as the title character in revenge flick called Machete. Remember those crappy revenge/action pictures from the 80’s that littered the isles of your local mom & pop video store? The Machete trailer captures the spirit of those B-movies so completely it’s a little scary. Everything from the Death Wish style one liners to hilariously bad FX. It begins the film on a perfect note.
After that, we hop into the Rodriguez half of the double feature, Planet Terror. An intentionally schlocky Zombie/action flick. The first two acts are a blast, and easily more entertaining than just about any of the recent wave of zombie movies. The creative centers of Rodriguez brain seem to be running on overdrive, as nearly every frame seems to contain some kind of gimmick, gag, or in-joke. Zombies are torn to bits by gunfire. Squibs explode with tons of obviously fake blood. Innocent victims are ravaged by zombie hoards. In one moment, El Ray, the hero of the piece played by Freddy Rodriguez, lets loose with a martial arts display that would be right at home in a late 80’s Golden Harvest production.
For the first two thirds of Planet Terror, this approach is highly entertaining. By the final act, however, it grows tiresome. It also has the unintended effect of revealing Planet Terror’s major flaw (If you want to call it that): It resembles a grade-Z straight-to-video 80’s splatterfest more so than a 70’s Grindhouse flick. That said, it winds up being entertaining despite the fact the third act could have been scaled back a bit.
Then we have three more fake trailers as sort of an intermission before Tarantino’s offering. These trailers are so amusing that they almost end up stealing the show from the main attractions. Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino’s Slasher flick/Car chase movie, stars Kurt Russell as a stunt driver who uses his souped up ride to kill women after he stalks them. Immediately we realize that Tarantino seems to have a better understanding of what a “grindhouse” film actually is. Everything about the opening credit sequence from Death Proof would be right at home in the bell bottom era.
Due to the length, audience members may have issues with the pacing. Tarantino uses the dialogue as sort of a strip tease before the big reveal. He knows that we are getting restless, and frustrated. He knows that we know that something is coming. The car chase in the final act is the a pitch perfect pay-off for the deliberate pacing and build up of the first two acts. It’s evident that Death Proof is the leaner, better executed half of this double feature. It made Planet Terror seem overdone and excessive by comparison. It achieves its thrills by avoiding most of the modern tricks that Rodriguez seems all to eager to use, namely CGI.
Grindhouse will give fans of both Tarantino and Rodriguez exactly what they have come to expect. Don’t be surprised if it ends up spawning a whole new generation of grindhouse aficianados and filmmakers.