Girls with guns for legs, deadly stuntmen who use cars as weapons and an army of zombies is the latest from bad boy directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
“Grindhouse” does not just celebrate the pure trash art of grindhouse films, but it is meant to give the feeling of spending the night in a run-down and dirty theater watching the kinds of movies that not only shock, but disgust and arouse. This is grindhouse cinema reinvented.
The first segment, titled “Planet Terror,” is directed by Rodriguez who does his best to give homage to old zombie film makers such as George Romero (“Dawn of the Dead”) and Lucio Fulci (“Zombi II”).
The characters set to fight off a horde of zombies are a go-go dancer named Cherry Darling, played by the gorgeous but edgy Rose McGowan, and her biker boyfriend El Wray, played by Freddy Rodriguez.
Cherry, who loses her leg during a zombie attack, gets a replacement for it from El Wray. He replaces it with a machine gun that Cherry uses to shoot down enemies without having to pull the trigger once, no doubt a deliberate mistake made by the director.
McGowan does a great job of playing the girl who was wronged and is now out to get justice and blood. Like a white Foxy Brown, she is kicking ass and taking names. Freddy Rodriguez is amazing as Cherry’s love interest and oddly enough, her sidekick. He is completely convincing as a lovestruck boyfriend who wants to do nothing more than to help his girlfriend get revenge.
Although complete with cigarette burns and missing scenes, “Planet Terror” ends up looking more like a big budget studio release than the low-budget grindhouse gorefest Rodriguez tried to achieve. The dialogue is also slightly disappointing. It lacks the cheesy campiness of its ’70s counterparts and the allegories for society. It seemed like Rodriguez was more interested in making the viewer nauseous. However, it does the one thing he set out to do, entertain.
Between the two segments there are “prevues” for upcoming shock horror films, which include Rodriguez’s “Machete,” Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving,” Edgar Wright’s “Don’t Scream” and Rob Zombie’s play on “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS,” titled, “Werewolf Women of the SS.”
“Machete,” which stars Danny Trejo as the resident badass, and Roth’s “Thanksgiving,” are especially good. They feel as though they are really from the ’70s, right down to the background voice. These two are crying out to be real films.
Tarantino takes the reigns with the second film “Death Proof” which stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, an insanely vicious stuntman who hunts women down and kills them with his car. Similar to Tarantino’s other films such as “Reservoir Dogs” and “Jackie Brown,” “Death Proof” boasts the slow build up and unintentionally funny and realistic dialogue.
“Death Proof” lacks the continual gore and bloodshed that its companion film has, however it excels where “Planet Terror” fails. “Death Proof” is completely believable as a ’70s B-movie complete with badass female heroines played by Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Ferlito, similar to Reiko Ike in Japan’s famous pink violence film “Girl Boss Guerilla,” the Pussy Cats in the 1965 classic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” or more recently, Uma Thurman’s character in “Kill Bill Vol. I and II.”
It is obvious that Tarantino’s other films have been influenced by B movies and grindhouse horror flicks and he uses his vast knowledge of cheap and cheesy movies to his benefit.
“Death Proof” has no CGI effects and has a jaw-droppingly real car chase that is sure to blow the mind of any viewer. Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike is like Snake from “Escape from L.A.” with the calculating coldness of Rutger Hauer from “The Hitcher.” His sex appeal is what lures the ladies in, and then the crazy killer in him takes over.
“Grindhouse” is two amazing films packaged together in B- movie appeal. Though film nerds will undoubtedly love these stylized exploitation films, so will other audiences.
Tarantino and Rodriguez have come together to produce a piece of gold in the cinematic world, and these films should not be missed.
Rating *** out of 4