Grindhouse Review: Everything You'd Want and Much More!
by Alex Billington
April 6, 2007
Over the past few weeks I've dedicated over nine hours of my life to watching Grindhouse three times. I now know both films of this double feature inside-out and I can recite all the good lines from memory. Just a few weeks ago I thought Zack Snyder's 300 couldn't be topped, but Grindhouse did it - twice! Grindhouse is a cinematic experience unlike anything I've ever seen and it will change the way you look at Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and the movie theater forever.
An homage to the grindhouse era of ultra-violent low-budget films, Grindhouse itself features two films, a incredible zombie flick titled Planet Terror directed by Robert Rodriguez; and the killer muscle car movie Death Proof directed by Quentin Tarantino. In Planet Terror, a small town with a military base just "2 miles ahead" becomes quickly overrun by zombies, and it's up to the skillful hero with a shady history known as El Wray (Freddy RodrÃguez), his ex-girlfriend with a missing leg (Rose McGowan), and their compatriots from all over the town to take on the zombies and live through the night. In Death Proof, the stunt driver known as Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) has an evil, murderous side and preys on the lovely young local women of Austin, Texas with his car as his weapon.
I could easily spend the remainder of this review explaining the stories in much greater detail, but that would destroy everything that makes Grindhouse great. Part of the experience is watching the ridiculous and often baffling nature of each of the stories unfold before your eyes. Both films are undoubtedly B-movies, created to emphasize grindhouse cinema, complete with dirty reels, scratches, and even missing reels, yet they are still masterful creations that are more enjoyable than most of today's A-movies. Although Rodriguez's Planet Terror seems much more grungy, Tarantino skimps on the added "effects" of scratches and burns and focuses more on the formula of a movie and his lengthy scenes of dialogue.
Both films in Grindhouse could be feature-length on their own, but Tarantino and Rodriguez cut them down to make Grindhouse run a mere 3 hours 11 minutes in total. Each film is brilliant on its own, but in the abridged presentation that will hit theaters, Planet Terror is a bit more complete and a bit stronger. There's really no reason to compare one to the other, but Death Proof seemed to lose the consistently hilarious and extreme nature that Planet Terror upheld for its 90 minutes. Whereas after Planet Terror everyone is rooting for more blood, gore, guns, and killing, it takes a while for Death Proof to build up to the one primary scene that is guaranteed to give everyone a shock. That's not to say that scene isn't the one that gets my heart really pumping in fear even after the third time watching it, and to still be mesmerized by Tarantino's ability to create some of the best dialogue in film. I can't wait for the DVD set with the uncut versions of both films, since with the 30 minutes of cut footage, Death Proof would be truly perfect.
Death Proof's final car chase scene comes out of nowhere and is one of the best car chases in film history. Tarantino has worked his magic on car chases and he has outdone both cult classics like Bullitt and recent greats like The Matrix Reloaded. This is the first film that has made me want to own a muscle car like Stuntman Mike's to drive daringly, drive recklessly, and drive fast. On top of that there is Zoe Bell, Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill - you will not find a more attractive, more versatile, and more phenomenal stuntwoman/actor than she.
In Planet Terror, the biggest praise goes to Freddy RodrÃguez for creating the latest greatest action hero. I also have to mention both Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey, who take their B-movie heroic status to the next level and deliver two of my favorite performances. Beyond that there's Marley Shelton and Josh Brolin, who as Dr. and Dr. Block had me both laughing and grinning in every scene. The last mention goes to legendary badass Kurt Russell, whose Stuntman Mike character is a homage to his past action film glory. There is not a bad performance in Grindhouse, and both films could be turned into lengthy studies on acting excellence for every last character - baffling for two movies that are supposed to be B-films, more raw and less refined than glamorous Hollywood money-making features.
The fun is doubled with four fake trailers which provide the most grotesque and gory scenes out of any in the entirety of Grindhouse. They complete what is one of the most riveting and probably the undeniably greatest cinematic experience of the past and next four years. In one half of Grindhouse you have the greatest car chase in recent film history; in the other you have a bloody, brilliant, and boisterous zombie movie that delivers everything you'd expect. Only two of the greatest filmmakers in the modern era of cinema could put together these two films into one of the greatest cinematic experiences in film history.