Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grindhouse

Movie name: Grindhouse
Year of release: 2007
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Naveen Andrews, Josh Brolin, Nicky Katt, Michael Parks, Bruce Willis, Stacy Ferguson, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Vanessa Ferlito, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Action/Horror/Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
“Grindhouse” is all you could expect from the minds of filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, in their homage to the exploitation and low budget films of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s fun, daring, over the top and unlike anything you’ll see anytime soon.

By now everyone has read that “Grindhouse” is not exactly corresponding to everyone’s expectations in terms of box-office receipts, particularly The Weinstein’s who financed this double feature (to a reported budget of 50 million dollars or even more, according to different sources). It has also been reported that there are plans of re-releasing the films separately, since there is enough footage that was shot in order to do so (the original plan was to release the extended versions on DVD). One of the problems that has been hinted is the fact that this double feature runs over 3 hours, and the audience doesn’t realize that after the first segment, “Planet Terror” and the “bogus” trailers, the film “Death Proof” follows. Ultimately this is a double feature that totally corresponds to what the filmmakers intended and set out to do – recreate the low budget films of the 70’s (and to some extent, 80’s), that where exhibited in drive-ins, with low quality projection and sometimes even missing sections of the film (the missing reels).
Grindhouse starts and intertwines both main films with “bogus” trailers, directed by the likes of Edgar Wright and Eli Roth, and for those alone it’s worth going and checking out the film. However the main attractions here are “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”. “Planet Terror” from Robert Rodriguez starts fast, introducing us to an underground transaction in a military facility that goes wrong and where a strange gas is released producing disturbing results on those who inhale it. We are then introduced to the character of Cherry, a go-go dancer who wants to have a career change and whom we later know plans to become a stand up comedian. We also start following the life of Dr. Dakota Block, whom we understand is meeting with her lover and abandoning her Dr husband, William Brock. The lives of these characters and of Wray, Cherry’s former lover (and for whom she still has feelings) end up crossing, mostly because the gas that was released to the atmosphere earlier on has transformed the city’s inhabitants into flesh eating zombies. In the process of running away the group suffers some losses, namely Cherry’s leg that ends up being replaced by a machine gun. The group manages to find a way to escape, not without the sacrifice of Wray, whom due to a night of passion with Cherry is to become the father of her unborn child. Ultimately the group finds a safe haven in an area that they manage to keep zombie safe.
“Death Proof” on the other hand introduces us to a group of four girls who are meeting for a couple of drinks in a bar. These four friends are approached by Stuntman Mike, an iconic and seductive man who is ultimately a serial killer, that uses his car, “Death Proof” to kill unprotected women. Stuntman Mike manages to kill the four girls and starts checking another group to prey on. However his attack on the latter group turns out sour, when the girls quickly recover and come in his pursuit.
This very resumed view of the film doesn’t make justice to all the gross out moments, frights, sheer laughs and adrenaline rush that populate both films. “Planet Terror” is a typical Robert Rodriguez film, with all that comes attached. As always a multi-tasker (he’s responsible for the music, photography, editing, screenplay, production and direction), Rodriguez aims to create a spectacle where the focus is the non-stop action and gross out humor that derive from the situations (Naveen Andrews’ character and the jar filled with testicles?). There isn’t much to know about the characters, they are simply introduced to give the audience something to howl and have a few laughs about. In a way, this ends up being faithful to the spirit of the films that Grindhouse aims to emulate. It’s fun, non-stop and ultimately there are scenes iconic enough to stay in your mind for some time (namely Rose McGowan’s Cherry). All the actors fill their parts with gusto and irreverence, from McGowan, to Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton and Aliens vet Michael Biehn (just to name a few). “Death Proof” however subverts and draws new cards in the concept. Quentin Tarantino (also lensing, producing, writing and directing) not only pays an homage to the B-pictures, but he also imbues it with a character development and a depth that isn’t usual in those films. He introduces the audience to two groups of women, and he allows the actresses to really flesh them out – we are drawn into these women’s universes. Curiously Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike oozes a menacing charm (much like Snake Plissken, his character in the John Carpenter films, Escape from New York and Escape from LA), but he ends up being the character we don’t really follow that much. He’s a catalyst for all the action, but as always in a Quentin Tarantino film, the whole adds more than just the highlight. “Death Proof” also has one of the best and gutsiest car chases recently filmed – and what is even better, all without any computers. It’s a typically Tarantino film, where the action and the sudden outbursts of violence occur within a structure that is far more complex than it may appear. It’s a rewarding view, and it allows actors like Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier and Kurt Russell to really give memorable performances.
A special highlight should also be given to the “fake” trailers that introduce and divide the presentation of each film. All of them end up being so over-the-top (Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu) and so hysterically funny, that they alone should be given the right of their own film (Werewolf Women of the SS anyone?).
Grindhouse is ultimately a film that entertains, amuses and thrills the audience. It demands repeat viewings for better savoring!

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