Quentin Tarantino, God I wish it wasn’t…
This is a feature from the Moviebarn radio show on FreshAir. Each week I’m going to talk about a film that sucks baws, but has a great song on the soundtrack. Naturally, this could provoke some interesting responses…
As we all know, Grindhouse hit America with all the punch of an infant with carpal tunnel syndrome. Pompous people in cravats who wear sunglasses during the day blamed audiences for “not getting the concept of a double bill”. Whether or not that’s true’s open for debate, but one thing’s for sure – Death Proof is a bad old movie.
Let’s look at the facts; Grindhouses, flea pits, whatever you want to call them, were built on schlocky movies with low production values but high action and intensity. Damaged prints, bad acting, stuff on the floor that might be vomit, might be beer, might be something else but above-all good fun films. Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror gets this.
As the first half of the double it storms out of the gate, throws the jockey into the nearest bush and runs around trampling spectators. It’s full of neat visual effects that echo the Grindhouse’s poor maintenance, and the action is truly relentless. Zombies, women, car chases, huge guns, big explosions, gore all over the place, and a pair of excellent moustaches. In short, every box you want in your Friday night film is ticked, in red, with a huge pen.
Death Proof on the other hand is not how you do this kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like Quentin Tarantino, but he needs someone to stop him over-cooking it from time-to-time, because he sure as hell isn’t going to stop himself.
Death Proof wants to be a feisty, funky tale of women empowering themselves to stop a crazy chauvinist pig. Decent idea, but the execution, oh hell no.
There’s enough dialogue to sink a battleship, and so much of it’s not necessary. Bit of chat, move on – don’t stand around for ages doing bugger all. And lots of talk means, yep, you guessed it, no rock. There’s very limited action here, confined to two main chases, one of which is OK, but the other is little more than an advert for Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell. Which she needs, ‘cos she won’t be getting any calls RE: her acting any time soon. Wooden is too soft a word, if she was any worse she’d have dug roots into the ground and started blooming.
The most inexcusable thing about Death Proof though is Tarantino himself. He looks like an abstract map of Italy. He has a voice like a cat stuck in a blender. He has an ego the size of a small yacht and a borderline foot fetish. Despite these flaws, he has the gall to cast himself as the barman who everybody loves. The women, the men, fuck, even the soft furnishings want a piece of his action. Ok it’s a pet/vanity project to begin with, but Quentin, at least keep up the pretence that it isn’t “allaboutyou”.
Meanwhile, in the background, April March gets the tone that Tarantino aimed for first-time. Her track Chick Habit is the standout on that great saving grace of flawed Tarantino movies – the soundtrack. It’s catchy, it grabs your attention, it’s a bit racy, and a bit dangerous. The point of the song is “Don’t mess with women, or you’re gonna get it”, which sums up the film’s key theme pretty well. But above all it captures the retro cool that Quentin wanted, and Rodriguez nailed.
Listen to it here;
April March – Chick Habit