Grindhouse was a flop. Even splitting the multi-film aggregate into two parts, separating the Robert Rodriguez effort, Planet Terror, from Tarantino’s Death Proof didn’t help at all. Inserting the in-between film mock advertisements didn’t ingratiate the film to aficionados, who were assumed to have been hip to such throw backs. Even the inclusion of Eli Roth, director of the Saw franchise, couldn’t add a bit of cool cache to the entire thing. It was a flop. And there was nothing to do about it – even turn it over to Cannes and hope that a longer version caught some critic’s eye.
It may have, but the film, even as it sported some of Tarantino’s well worn wit and dialogue didn’t jive for viewers – critical or otherwise. Death Proof, though, did have a similar feel to it as the Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration on From Dusk ‘till Dawn. The colors used were the same – all tired yellow and oranges. And while that earlier film from 1996 didn’t make a pot of gold at the end of the day, it wasn’t as universally panned. But why is that?
Over the entirety of his career – as with the Coen Brothers – Tarantino’s been dogged by the argument that he’s not endeavored to create anything new and wholly representational of himself. Instead, the director and writer relies heavily upon quips and concepts cribbed from older films. While there could be an argument refuting that while looking at Tarantino’s work – as well as the Coens’ – this latest effort makes it difficult to carry the logic to its natural end.
Death Proof, like its predecessors, was conceived in order to allow the director to revel in his own fond recollections of film and childhood. Here, however, the purposefully campy aesthetic cultivated in other works and specifically in the Kill Bill films, is amped up to untoward levels of nonsense.
As a result of casting relative unknowns in all of the major roles here – save for Rosario Dawson and Kurt Russell – the performances turned in, for the most part, come off as pretty painful to watch, even for the Tarantino adherent. That being said, the director most likely wanted the film’s tone to resound the way it does. Examining the intent of the author, in a number of cases, is as important as the reader of the film. Understanding that Tarantino isn’t some awful misogynist (or is he?) should allow for light, pleasurable viewing. There are, of course, some who can’t understand the film in those terms.