Death Proof is the second part of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino homage to the exploitation grindhouse movies of the 1970s.
Kurt Russel plays Stuntman Mike, a Hollywood stunt man with a penchant for killing pretty young women – with his car. A death proofed car. That’s a car configured for Hollywood stunts where the driver’s side is protected from any collision or crash. Of course, the pretty young women are in the passenger seat.
This movie takes forever to get going. Much foreshadowing and crackling dialogue (that I guess Tarantino just couldn’t bear to cut). A quartet of bodacious babes meets up with Stuntman Mike at a dive bar in Austin, Texas. Much dialogue and metaphor mixing – sometimes it seems like Tarantino adds unnecessary background detail to his characters in some kind of attempt at a later analog to The Silmarillon. Many trim, wet female legs writhing in the film frame and a lusty, lip-engorged lapdance featuring Rosario Dawson. Eventually the girls meet a fate that I won’t disclose here. Needless to say Stuntman Mike strikes again. A long pointless scene with the local fuzz manages to go nowhere. I mean really, you could have edited the scene out of the movie and it would have removed nothing. Later on, Stuntman Mike is out cruising the mean streets of Lebanon, Tennessee when he runs into another quartet of women. Unfortunately for him they are on break from a local film shoot, one of them is a stunt girl and another is a stunt driver.
You can guess what happens next.
There is an absolutely fantastic stunt sequence where a daredevil joyride is interrupted by Stuntman Mike and one of the girls is holding on to the hood of their car – great stunt work – I watched it twice.
After Stuntman Mike thinks he’s killed one of the girls – the gals decide to turn the tables. My favorite image of the movie is when the stunt girl grabs a discarded metal pipe off the side of the rood and then jumps onto the car as it drives away, straddling the car door in jousting style.
This movie is more an idea than anything – a sentiment – a ‘what if?’ than a fully developed film. It could have been cooked down to about 40 minutes.
Tracie Thoms is the standout as the stunt driver with a motorhead deathwish and a trashmouth to match. You’ll remmeber her as one of the silver-tongue powerhouse diva lesbians from the movie (and Broadway production) of ‘Rent’.
Death Proof does much less of the ‘used, scratched’ celluloid treatment that gave Planet Terror an extra layer of grit. When I like Tarantino, it is when he is at his exploitive and lurid best – but when that is driving a plot. These are the kinds of pieces actors love – they can swim in caked blood and wreak violence and vengeance on themselves, each-other and the world around them. Death Proof made me start wondering what I could fester up if my crazy actor buddies and I got together and decided to push ourselves to the edge.