The funny thing about Death Proof is the first half is excellent. With the exception of Sydney Poitier, who is awful, it’s a fantastic hour. Tarantino’s got great editing, great shots, great mood, great conversations, great everything. I had planned on going on and on about it–like, for example, how charming and scary Kurt Russell’s performance is–it’s kind of like he’s playing Elvis again. Or Vanessa Ferlito, who’s excellent. Even how Tarantino really made the retro concept work, with the music and the sound design. When he uses the love theme from Blow Out–even if it’s on a scene with Poitier–it’s real movie magic….
But then there’s the second half of the film, which doesn’t have the retro feel to it. I imagine it’s supposed to mimic Vanishing Point or some other car movie Tarantino really likes, but it’s a piece of unimaginable crap. The conversations are idiotic–the new characters are all in Hollywood and, wow, can stuntwoman Zoe Bell not act. Even forgetting some of the glaring problems–like Russell’s villain is stupid now instead of smart (and he doesn’t reinforce his car as well in the second half)–Tarantino’s casting of Zoe Bell in a speaking, significant role is the biggest flare the film fires. He does not care about making a good film. I mean, Poitier’s bad and all, but she’s at least acting. Bell isn’t. The problem with Death Proof is Tarantino gets to do whatever he wants, which obviously isn’t a situation he works well in. Thinking about it, suffering through the second half, I should have realized the second set of girls wasn’t going to die (except Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who’s left by her friends to be raped and murdered), because it’s all the Tarantino standards, with Tracie Thoms doing a bad job of impersonating Samuel L. Jackson. No way Tarantino is going to kill off Rosario Dawson because to his target audience, Dawson is gold.
Tarantino’s level of disrespect to a thinking viewer is truly amazing and quite surprising. But more so, he fails to do what he set out to do, which was make a retro film with all the film grain, missing frames, bad looping and wear and tear. He flushed the idea once it became his neo-Tarantino movie… and I say neo, because it’s not something he would have done ten years ago. It’s obviously Robert Rodriguez’s influence (Rodriguez, who had so much love for the “Grindhouse” concept, he slapped his CG Troublemaker Studios logo on the front of it, killing the retro feel before the movie even started).
If the film weren’t two hours, I think I’d be more upset… but after suffering through the pathetic second half, I’m just glad it’s over.
Dawson and Winstead are both okay in the second half at the beginning, until Bell shows up and Dawson gets obnoxious (becoming the type of person–knowing full well what’s going to occur–to leave her friend to be raped and murdered) and Winstead becomes a half-wit.
Death Proof is such an insult, I’m so agitated I didn’t even end on that great “I’m glad it’s over” line. Seriously, the person I feel worst for is Russell. The first half is career resurgence, amazing performance, yada yada yada–the second half… he should have not shown up for work and just let Tarantino call Michael Madsen.
Written, directed and photographed by Quentin Tarantino; edited by Sally Menke; production designer, Steve Joyner; produced by Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Erica Steinberg and Tarantino; released by Dimension Films.
Starring Kurt Russell (Stuntman Mike), Zoe Bell (Zoë Bell), Rosario Dawson (Abernathy), Vanessa Ferlito (Arlene), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Jungle Julia), Tracie Thoms (Kim), Rose McGowan (Pam), Jordan Ladd (Shanna) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lee).