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
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