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Movie Review: Grindhouse

grindhouse_rev-2

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<@sq@>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.

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