Directed by Robert Rodriguez and screenplay by Quentin Tarantino based on an original story by Robert Kurtzman, From Dusk till Dawn is the story of two bank robbing brothers who take a family hostage as they travel to Mexico where they all enter a bar that is very mysterious as they later have to battle vampires. The film is a horror-comedy that involves Rodriguez’s stylish approach to violence as well as Tarantino’s snappy and witty dialogue. Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Salma Hayek, and Cheech Marin with appearances from John Saxon, John Hawkes, Michael Parks, Kelly Preston, Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, and Fred Williamson. From Dusk till Dawn is a fun and in-your-face film from Robert Rodriguez.
After robbing a bank and then dealing with a bloody gun battle with Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) and a liquor store clerk (John Hawkes), Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his younger brother Richard (Quentin Tarantino) are on the run as they hope to reach Mexico to meet with a crime boss named Carlos (Cheech Marin) to split the money. The brothers have a hostage (Brenda Hillhouse) whom Richard is interested in as they stop at a motel where things go wrong until a faith-challenged pastor named Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) checks in. Jacob is with his young adult daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and her adopted Chinese brother Scott (Ernest Liu) as they’re going to Mexico where they’re confronted by Seth. Seth asks Jacob to drive his RV to Mexico as Richard, Kate, and Scott all go in for the ride.
After a tense moment involving a border guard (Cheech Marin) at the border, the five are able to make it to Mexico where they stop at the rendezvous point at a bar called the Titty Twister. Things seemed fine where Seth, Jacob, Richard, Kate, and Scott all have drinks as they’re later entertained by the exotic stripper Satanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek). Yet, a scuffle with a guy named Chet Pussy (Cheech Marin) and the bartender Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo) leads to trouble where it is revealed that the bar is filled with vampires. With help from the whip-wielding Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and the quick-witted Frost (Fred Williamson), the Gecko brothers and the Fullers go on an all-out war the vampires.
The film is essentially a story about two bank robbing-brothers who kidnap a family to Mexico where they later fight off vampires in a strange bar. In the writing style of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s soaring approach to action. It’s a film that does a whole lot more than its B-movie premise suggests while still being a silly, stylish, and over-the-top kind of film that both Tarantino and Rodriguez love. The script that Tarantino creates does have a lot of fast-paced and stylish dialogue that is a trademark of his work as the film starts off as a Tarantino film for its opening scene. While the script is among one of the more straightforward works in terms of narrative structure and dialogue. Tarantino does succeed in creating a story that does help build an element of suspense as well as making characters who are more than what they seem to be.
The direction of Robert Rodriguez is truly a joy to watch from the opening scene between Earl McGraw and the liquor store clerk that is very straightforward and charming to the dark intensity that follows where the Gecko brothers are properly introduced. While Rodriguez maintains a keen sense of style in the film’s violent moments filled with a few slow-motion shootouts and some frenetic fights that goes in the bar scenes. Rodriguez knows how to create tension without going overboard by taking his time and wait for the payoff. Also serving as the editor, Rodriguez is able to create a wide array of style to the cutting in order to create a film that plays up to Tarantino’s fast-paced dialogue while also being able to slow things down. Overall, Rodriguez creates a very solid and exciting film that does a whole lot more than its vampire-action genre suggests.
Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro does a brilliant job with the film‘s stylish photography from the very sunny look of the desert exteriors of Texas to the more exotic array of lights and dark settings created at the Titty Twister bar scenes. Production designer Cecilia Montiel, along with set decorator Felipe Fernandez del Paso and art director Mayne Berke, does an excellent job with the design of the Titty Twister bar interiors as well as the hall that everyone is at for the fight and Satanico Pandemonium‘s dance. Costume designer Graciela Mazon does a nice job with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual except for the leather clothing that Sex Machine and Razor Charlie wear.
Visual effects supervisors Diana Dru Botsford and Daniel Fort do fantastic work with some of the film‘s special visual effects such as the human transformation into vampires as well as some of fire that occurs once the vampires are killed. Sound editor Dean Beville does some great work in the sound from the way the vampires growl sound to the layers of gunshots and all sorts of sound effects made during the fights. The film’s score by Graeme Revell is very good for its mix of suspenseful orchestral pieces to a mixture of Texas blues music that is rampant in the film’s soundtrack. Notably as it features contributions from ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmie Vaughn, the Blasters, and Tito & Tarantula that appears as the Titty Twister’s house band.
The casting by Elaine J. Huzzar and Johanna Ray is superb for the ensemble that is created ranging from famous character actors to actors famous for being in certain genre films. Making small appearances include John Saxon as a FBI agent, Kelly Preston as a TV news reporter, John Hawkes as the liquor store clerk, Michael Parks as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, Brenda Hillhouse as the Gecko brothers’ hostage, Danny Trejo as the badass bartender Razor Charlie, horror film guru Tom Savini as the whip-wielding Sex Machine, and blaxploitation icon Fred Williamson as the war veteran Frost. Notable supporting roles include Cheech Marin playing three roles such as a border patrol guard, the gangster Carlos, and in a hilarious performance as the pussy-talking Chet Pussy.
Salma Hayek is excellent as the sexy and devilishly charming Satanico Pandemonium while Ernest Liu is alright as the more naïve and reluctant Scott Fuller. Juliette Lewis is terrific as Kate who starts off as a reluctant friend of the Gecko brothers to becoming a full-fledge badass. Quentin Tarantino is very good as Richard Gecko who often has these strange fantasies about what women says to him while dealing with a wounded hand. Harvey Keitel is great as the conflicted Jacob Fuller who tries to deal with his own issues while helping out the Gecko brothers fight off the vampires. Finally, there’s George Clooney in a brilliant performance as the cool Seth Gecko who leads the way against the vampires while trying not to be a total criminal as he actually shows some compassion.
From Dusk till Dawn is an incredible and ass-kicking film from Robert Rodriguez and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino. Featuring a wonderful cast, great music, and lots of gory yet top-notch violence. It’s a film that doesn’t hold back in what it wants to be while making it a whole lot of fun to watch. Notably as it’s all about killing vampires with all sorts of things with catchy dialogue and amazing scenery. In the end, From Dusk till Dawn is an entertaining and thrilling film from Robert Rodriguez.
Robert Rodriguez Films: (El Mariachi) - (Roadracers) - (Desperado) - Four Rooms-The Misbehavers - (The Faculty) - (Spy Kids) - (Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams) - (Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over) - (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) - Sin City - (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D) - Grindhouse-Planet Terror - (Shorts) - (Machete) - (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World)
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