Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Sydney Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito, Rose McGowan
Running time: 113 mins
From Quentin Tarantino comes Death Proof, a disappointing, wildly uneven movie that is certainly not boredom proof. The prospect of the auteur paying homage to the trashy exploitation flicks of the '70s heightened expectations but, despite a gripping performance from Kurt Russell, Death Proof elicits more snores that thrills.
Death Proof has a vaguely intriguing premise involving the social activities of two groups of sassy young ladies stalked and pursued by the demented Stuntman Mike (Russell). Originally one half of the Grindhouse project alongside Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror the film has now been extended and given its own cinematic release in the UK after the double bill tanked at the US Box Office.
Sadly, the narrative relies on long, drawn out dialogue sequences between the various female protagonists. Tarantino has been much acclaimed for his ability to write witty dialogue, but flounders here when supplying words for the fairer sex. Their banter is more irrelevant than irreverent. Scenes set around the table in bars or restaurants may have worked well in the male-dominated Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, but are simply very dull here.
This all lets down Kurt Russell's sublime performance, which exudes both psychopathic menace and a surreal comic touch. He redeems pretty much all of the scenes he is in, but as he's used sparingly at times, this is not enough to redeem the entire movie.
Nonetheless, Tarantino can still use the lens, if not the pen, to give the narrative a much needed kick in the backside. The sequence where Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) is coerced into stripping for Stuntman Mike oozes sex and danger, while a horrific car crash is masterfully seen from four various perspectives at the moment of impact, one by one, wallowing in the gory outcome for each of the car's occupants.
Above all though, the final extended chase scene between Mike and a car of angry ladies is a thrilling chunk of pure adrenalin-filled cat and mouse action, with stuntwoman Zoe Bell (playing herself) pulling off some jaw-dropping manoeuvres while strapped to the front of a car.
The decision to add some 'authenticity' to the film's influences falls flat on an artistic level. The scratched up celluloid, missing snippets of footage and one reel in black and white (presumably a homage to the cheap nature of the original genre) all reek of self-consciousness and help detach us from an attempt to follow the meandering narrative.
Apart from these rare highlights, Death Proof sags more than Carole's cleavage on Big Brother. Given the film's unique history, perhaps we can cross our fingers that Tarantino will edit out all the scenes that don't involve Kurt Russell for the DVD release...