Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Death Proof

Year 8, Day 209 7/27/16 - Movie #2,404

BEFORE: "Poseidon" was something of a dead-end for me, linking-wise, for a long time.  But then I scanned through the cast, and other movies they were in, and I came up with "Death Proof", with Kurt Russell carrying over.  Now, I don't have a copy, so I have to watch this tonight on iTunes - and this works out for me, because when I think of Comic-Con, sometimes I think about Tarantino.  I met him there, over a decade ago, he was walking by our booth, trying to remain relatively incognito (this was back in the day when celebs could still walk around at Comic-Con) but my boss yelled out "Quentin!" really loudly, completely blowing his cover.  And this links to the other "Grindhouse" film, which links to my next starting point - so it's like it was meant to be.

But why not "The Hateful Eight", if I'm going to cover Tarantino?  Well, a couple of reasons.  I can watch "Death Proof" on iTunes for just $2.99, but "Hateful Eight" is available on PPV for $5.99 - too rich for my blood.  Plus it's over three hours long, and I don't have that kind of time right now.  Finally, I think I can use it as linking material in about two months, after reviewing the cast list I think it will serve a purpose then quite nicely, and by then it may even be available on some premium cable channel, at no additional cost.  So even though Kurt Russell's in that film too, I'm prepared to roll the dice and save it for later.

THE PLOT: Two separate sets of voluptuous women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.

AFTER: I like a few Tarantino films, most notably "Pulp Fiction" - and I understand how a director might not want to repeat himself, but damn, why not make something similar, as in "just as good"?  I keep thinking he'll one day return to form and direct something that good again, and it just keeps on not happening.  I think maybe he peaked too soon, kind of like Orson Welles with "Citizen Kane" - Orson could have had three careers and never come close to that sort of achievement ever again, and I think Tarantino has gone the same way.  I really regard "Pulp Fiction" as a near-perfect film, and then what do you do for an encore?  How do you live up to your own hype after that?  

It's simple, you don't.  You can't.  And so we were given "Natural Born Killers" and "Jackie Brown" and "Kill Bill", none of which quite reached "Pulp Fiction" quality, not to me, at least.  "Inglourious Bastards" and "Django Unchained" both had promise, but similarly devolved into just orgiastic violence.  So maybe it's fine that I don't rush to watch "The Hateful Eight" - is it just more of the same? Jeez, there was violence in "Pulp Fiction" but it served a purpose, it was story driven, even a guy getting shot in the face had purpose, because, jeez, how do you clean up your car after something like that?  

We might ask similar questions after watching "Death Proof", a film with a singular purpose - killing women with cars.  The term "Death Proof" only applies to the driver, it turns out, and not his passengers, or anyone else on the road wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top.  Violence is not "story driven" when it IS the story, and there is no OTHER story.  And what kind of a sick mind conceives of this in the first place.  What's the "elevator pitch"?  OK, there's this guy who kills women with his car, and...that's it.  Well, at least the pitch was short, if not sweet.  

OK, I admit the story is in two parts, which are kind of mirror images of each other, the same scenario with different outcomes.  That doesn't excuse a thing, in my opinion.  The first half of the film exists only to set up violence, very graphic violence.  So, we introduce characters, just to kill them?  Geez, even a slasher film like "Friday the 13th" has more of a story arc for its victims.  I believe in karma, what comes around goes around, do unto others, etc. etc.  We are all one, so when you harm others, you are really harming yourself - and if you believe that, you'll accept a ride home from a stranger, and well, it was nice knowing you.  

Does the end justify the means?  If an evil character gets his comeuppance in the end, does that justify the glorification of (more or less) random acts of violence?  No, because those acts still happened, with devastating effects.  If a cop shoots a man who just killed 10 people, those people are still just as dead.  Also, bear in mind that the police in Texas would rather have you leave the state, than to do any real police work and prove that you're a killer.  Good to know.  Keep Austin weird, you guys.  

Similarly, I don't buy this "Grindhouse" umbrella, which states that it's OK, cool even, to have jump cuts and crossing-the-axis shots, sections that seem "accidentally" shot in black and white, scratches on the film and so forth.  Distractions, that's all they are at best, and cover-ups for some very shoddy filmmaking at worst.  We KNOW you're a professional and you're capable of making a professional-looking film, so quit screwing around.  Or just FIX it, I'm good either way.  Unless you're six kinds of OCD and your therapy involves making things that are intentionally not perfect, to familiarize yourself with the feeling of not fixing things, that I will accept. 

Surprisingly, according to the IMDB, this is the only Tarantino movie that plays out completely in chronological order, with no flashbacks.  See, Quentin, you CAN do it!  Good for you, man, you learned how to tell a linear story?  Who's a big boy now?  Now just do it every time, and we'll be jake.
Now you just have to relearn how to frame ultra-violence with a little thing called a story.  You did it before, I have faith that you can do it again.

Tonight's NITPICK POINT: How come, when our second group of fair maidens is being chased by the villain's car, and he's matching their car's speed, and bumping in to the side of their car, simply stopping, or even slowing down, isn't a valid option?  OK, maybe they're in a panic, but it seems to me like the simplest solution - if they bring the car to a slow stop, he's got nothing to chase.  And if they bring the car to a more sudden stop, he'll probably keep moving forward, at least for a while.  Either way, they'd solve the most immediate problem, and they could then drive to a police station, but then I guess that's too much of a logical notion for this film.

Also starring Rosario Dawson (last seen in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), Zoë Bell (last seen doing stunts in "Poseidon"), Vanessa Ferlito (last seen in "25th Hour"), Tracie Thoms (last seen in "The Devil Wears Prada"), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (last seen in "True Crime"), Rose McGowan (last seen in "Ready to Rumble"), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (last seen in "The Thing" (2011)), Jordan Ladd (last seen in "Never Been Kissed"), Eli Roth (last seen in "Rock of Ages"), Marcy Harriell, Omar Doom, Michael Bacall, Jonathan Loughran, Marley Shelton, Nicky Katt (last seen in "Gremlins"), James Parks, Michael Parks.

RATING: 4 out of 10 Jungle Julia billboards

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