Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
When directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez announced plans to release two films under one mega-title, it sounded like a perfectly good idea.
And it also seemed too good to be true. Really, what studio in its right mind would make such a financially irresponsible decision?
Well, Dimension Films, for one, which apparently doesn't mind breaking the rules if it means reinventing the cinematic experience. And that's something Grindhouse does rather effortlessly, actually.
The fun kicks off with the Rodriguez-directed "Machete," a faux trailer that serves as the perfect introduction to the evening's first feature: "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's ooey-gooey gore extravaganza that finds Freddy Rodriguez and Rose McGowan at the center of a zombie apocalypse.
As Cherry Darling, a one-legged stripper who fancies herself a stand-up comedian, McGowan redefines the role of the femme fatale when her character's missing leg is replaced with a machine gun. And that's the true beauty of "Planet Terror": It allows the director to indulge in his fetish for hokey, graphic violence. Here, Rodriguez plays with the audience's expectations, his tongue firmly planted in cheek.
After "Planet Terror," audiences are hit with even more false "prevues of coming attractions": Rob Zombie's lackluster "Werewolf Women of the S.S.," featuring Nicolas Cage; Edgar Wright's riotous "Don't Scream"; and Eli Roth's insanely disturbing "Thanksgiving."
And then the main event finally arrives: The latest Tarantino effort, "Death Proof." It's divided into two distinctly different parts, linked together by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a scarred psychopath who uses his car, a Dodge Charger with a skull and bones painted on the hood, as a lethal weapon.
The first segment follows Mike's preoccupation with a sexy local radio DJ named Jungle Julia (a feisty Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and her female posse. After an awful lot of girl talk and a fatal "run-in" with Mike, the second half of the picture follows a different group led by Zoe Bell best known as Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill.
Here, Bell plays herself, and for good reason: She spends a good deal of time as a human hood ornament, struggling not to become roadkill as Mike bullies the ladies with his muscle car. The thrilling sequence is designed to provide those old-school kicks that most studios seem to have forgotten about in this CGI-ridden day and age, and no one but Bell could pull it off with such physical grace, style and charisma.
As with all Tarantino productions, the dialogue is top-notch and the soundtrack boasts a bevy of tunes worthy of instant-classic status albeit a few decades too late. Playing like an homage to classic car chase films like Vanishing Point, "Death Proof" serves as proof that Tarantino hasn't lost a step.
Not only does the film feature one of his patented "trunk shots," but it also marks a structural departure for the writer-director, who ditches the flashback ploys from each of his previous films in favor of a linear, if bisected, narrative that takes place before the events of "Planet Terror."
As a whole, Grindhouse is far more than "just a movie." It's an unrivaled experience the likes of which we may never be privy to again. Prepare to be blown away by two masters at the top of their games, turning genre conventions on their heads and making movies just like they did in the good ol' exploitation days.