Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Rose McGowan……….Cherry – segment ‘Planet Terror’/Pam (segment “Death Proof”)
Freddy RodrÃguez……….Wray (segment “Planet Terror”)
Michael Biehn……….Sheriff Hague (segments “Planet Terror”/”Thanksgiving”)
Kurt Russell……….Stuntman Mike (segment “Death Proof”)
Rosario Dawson……….Abernathy (segment “Death Proof”)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead……….Lee (segment “Death Proof”)
Zoe Bell……….Zoe (segment “Death Proof”)
Danny Trejo……….Machete (segment “Machete”)
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are good friends and share one thing in common with their directorial careers: both have been viewed on a rather wide-ranging scale from fans and critics alike. Tarantino’s modest resume has often been either reviled or praised to the highest order; either he’s beloved for his quirky, violence infested worlds with characters that talk about nothing but pop culture clichÃ©s or he’s hated for doing the same thing. Rodriguez is a bit more prolific than Tarantino, balancing kid films with a library of action films from the cult classic Mariachi trilogy to one of 2005’s best, and most violent, films in Sin City. His frenetic, fast pacing and trademark emphasis on violence have gained him as many fans as well as the same percentage of people who revile his work. Both have signature styles that are homage to directors from the past: Tarantino borrows heavily from men like John Ford, Sergio Leone and Kurosawa interspersed with some unusual takes on popular culture while Rodriguez often uses pacing elements from 80s action films to develop the frenetic action sequences that are the hallmark of his style.
While both have made plenty of films that borrow from masters of the past, the two have combined to make a double feature of sorts which is a direct homage to the b-movies of the independent theatre chains that were prominent in the 1970s. Grindhouse, named after the grindhouse theater chains of the past who played many films that would now be released solely on DVD, follows two different films shown back to back with fake trailers in between. It’s a unique viewing experience, to say the least, that combines two very different and uniquely good films into a double feature.
“Planet Terror” is Rodriguez’s contribution, following a small town dealing with diseased people called “sickos,” lampooning every aspect of the zombie genre. In this, Cherry (Rose McGowan) and Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) rekindle their romance while having to fight off zombies with the local Sherriff (Michael Biehn) and some townsfolk. Riffing on every aspect of the genre, Rodriguez goes over the top and takes shots at every aspect of the zombie genre. Mainly spoofing some of the aspects from the more successful ones of the George Romeros of the world, Rodriguez crafts a terrifically funny comedy that provides an interesting contrast to his directing partner’s film, the aptly named “Death Proof.”
Tarantino submits “Death Proof” as the other half of the twin bill of films. The film focuses on Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who is killing beautiful woman with his car. A more straightforward contribution as a homage to the great car movies of the era like Vanishing Point and the original Gone in Sixty Second, as opposed to the satire that “Planet Terror” is, Tarantino crafts his pop-culture references into a film about a man who kills for fun and ultimately gets his comeuppance.
Meshed together with fake trailers in between by Rob Zombie (“Werewolf Women of the S.S.”), Eli Roth (“Thanksgiving) and Edgar Wright (“Don’t Scream”), Grindhouse has the look and feel of films from the era. The directors have combined to recreate the sort of low budget prowess and exploitative nature of the heyday of the grindhouse cinema, going to such length as scratching the film itself to make Grindhouse look like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or any number of films from the area. It’s a nice touch that helps to recreate the atmosphere of the period the duo are trying to replicate, as the film goes all the way in its recreation by adding in vintage titling and promotional materials during the film as well.
The problem with the film is that it’s mismatched. Tarantino is going incredibly serious and Death Proof could almost be an entry into the era gone by whereas Rodriguez is aiming more to poke fun at it than to recreate an entry into the genre. Both are entertaining and are goof films, obviously, but don’t mesh well together. Individually they work well, but for both to be combined it makes for an awkward viewing experience at times. It’s also 190 minutes in length, which is another potential drawback. This is a whole afternoon or a long evening of viewing, making it a long experience as well as a good one.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):