‘Grindhouse’: My cup of tea, probably not yours

Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:17pm
By: Michael Boylan

“Grindhouse,” the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature salute to B grade and lower films, bombed at the box office. Bob and Harvey Weinstein apparently weren’t pleased, but they should have seen it coming. Who was going to go to a three hour extravaganza of a gooey zombie movie and a talkie movie about a homicidal stuntman and his killer car over Easter weekend? Apparently me and a million other people and that’s it.

“Grindhouse” might have failed to re-inflate The Weinstein Company’s coffers, but it isn’t a failure of film-making. Rodriguez and Tarantino made some entertaining, albeit sick and twisted, films and gave the audience a unique experience. From the opening, which featured fake preview of a revenge film called “Machete,” to the psychedelic title screens announcing the beginning of their restricted features, “Grindhouse” wanted to give the viewer the feeling that they were in a rundown theater watching some off the beaten track, B-movie classics. The films looked worn, had “missing reels,” and were filled with thrills galore.

I loved every minute of it, but not many people would likely share my view.

Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” the first film, was the gooiest zombie film I have seen since Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive,” which is by far the goriest film I have ever seen. A biological weapon is released on a military base in Texas and soon the people who were exposed to the gas become lumpy, bloody zombies out to destroy. A rag-tag bunch of citizens are out to survive and destroy as many zombies as possible. There is no hope of shutting down the outbreak, although they may be able to destroy more of the evil canisters on their way to a safe haven. The film gets a great performance from Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who re-teams with an old flame, loses a leg, and gets it replaced with a machine gun. Others who show up and do some terrific work in the film are Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Freddie Rodriguez, Josh Brolin and Bruce Willis.

“Planet Terror” is not for the squeamish. There is a lot that made me wince and though the blood often resembles Kool-Aid, there are things that just look gross. I can’t go into details and I’m sure you don’t want me to.

“Death Proof” is Tarantino’s entry and it is vintage Tarantino, meaning lots of dialogue, often peppered with profanity and pop culture references. The first part of the film is very dialogue heavy, but that is just so the audience can meet the characters that Stuntman Mike, played menacingly by Kurt Russell, is going to stalk and kill. The crash sequence is very, very disturbing - and it should be - it makes you really hate Stuntman Mike and revel in the comeuppance he receives in the second part of the film. The second part is the best part and not just because it features Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Sky High”) in a cheerleader uniform. The second part of “Death Proof” features a terrific car chase and some amazing stunt-work from Zoe Bell, who plays herself. Bell was the stunt double for Uma Thurman in the “Kill Bill” films and she does some crazy stuff in this movie.

I liked both of these movies with “Death Proof” ahead of “Planet Terror,” just because I like Tarantino’s eye and ear a little bit better. Like many great directors, Tarantino has a certain style and watching “Death Proof” was like slipping into a comfortable shoe.

As an aside, the fake previews between the two features were hilarious, freaky and a little gross too. Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” takes the cake, but Rob Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of the SS” had some fun moments as well.

So, if you like the ooey-gooey, the profane and the violent and like movies with lots of gun-fire, explosions, car chases and more, “Grindhouse” is worth a trip to the theater. It won’t be the same on DVD.


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