Monday, November 12, 2012
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 4/9/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
From the minds of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse is an ambitious double-feature that celebrates sensational exploitation movies of the 1970s that were shown in drive-ins that blended all sorts of genres from zombie movies, biker films, horror, and all sorts of stuff. Both Tarantino and Rodriguez contribute their own features for this project that also includes fake trailers from Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, and Edgar Wright. From Robert Rodriguez is Planet Terror about a doctor, a one-legged stripper, a hitman, and several others fighting zombies in their small Texan town. From Quentin Tarantino is Death Proof about an aging stunt car driver stalking and killing women for his own pleasure only to find himself dealing with the wrong group of women.
With an all-star cast that includes Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Michael Biehn, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Freddy Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Trejo, Nicky Katt, Tom Savini, Michael Parks, Jeff Fahey, Tracie Thoms, Zoe Bell, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Vanessa Ferlito, and Eli Roth. Grindhouse is one hell of a motherfucking movie that will fuck the shit out of everyone who loves good ol' 70s exploitation.
Go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) meets her ex-boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) at a barbeque shack as he asks her to give him back his jacket. Meanwhile at an army base, a scientist named Abby (Naveen Andrews) is trying to create a cure for an infection that is carried by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) and his troops as it starts to spread. At another part of town, Dr. Dakota McGraw Block (Marley Shelton) is hoping to leave her husband Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin) to be with her girlfriend Tammy (Stacey Ferguson) only for something to go wrong when zombies start to emerge where Cherry had her right leg torn off. Wray takes Cherry to the hospital where Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) questions Wray and has him arrested while Dr. Block notices an infection on a patient (Nicky Katt) is spreading. Suddenly, the infection starts to spread on people as Hauge and his troopers try to escape where they go to the barbeque shack owned by Hague's brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey) for safety.
After Dr. Block doses Dakota with her drugs to make her joints limp as he knows about the affair, Dakota escapes with her son Tony (Rebel Rodriguez) as she seeks help from her father Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) for help as they evade all of the zombies going to J.T.'s barbeque shack. With the survivors at the shack, they all try to escape only to be captured by Lt. Muldoon and his troops for quarantine. With Abby also there as well as he knows how to make the antidote, Wray learns about the infection as he and Abby make an escape as does Cherry and Dakota where the former gets a machine gun as a new leg as the whole gagn fights the zombies.
New Yorker Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) arrives to Austin to party with Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and local DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) as they go to a bar. They party with a few locals as watching them is an old childhood enemy of Julia's in Pam (Rose McGowan) as she finds herself sitting next to a man named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). Mike offers a ride as he looks at the rest of the women partying in the bar as he approaches Arlene for a lapdance as he heard from Julia's program that Arlene is giving free lapdances. After the party, the women leave while Pam rides in Mike's black 1971 Chevy Nova SS which he used for his stuntwork as the ride turns out more than what Pam bargained for. After a horrific crash that Mike survived as he's been cleared of all charges by Earl McGraw and his son Edgar (James Parks), Mike moves to Tennessee. Mike decides to stalk another group of women in a makeup artist named Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), young actress Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and two stuntwomen in Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Zoe (Zoe Bell) as they're taking a break from making a film.
While they gossip on men and such, Zoe revealed she's found a 1970 white Dodge Challenger, which is the same car from the 1970s cult film Vanishing Point, in Tennessee as Zoe wants to take it out for a test drive and play a stunt game with Kim. Abernathy convinces the car's seller Jasper (Jonathan Loughran) to lend the car in exchange for some time with a sleepy Lee as Abernathy joins Kim and Zoe for the stunt game which was interrupted by Mike in his 1969 Dodge Charger Death Proof car. What Mike doesn't know is that he has fucked with the wrong group of ladies.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Machete stars Danny Trejo in the title role as a Mexican hitman who is hired to kill a politician only to be set up by a crime boss (Jeff Fahey). Machete decides to get revenge with help from a priest (Cheech Marin) as the boss realizes he messed with the wrong men. Directed by Rob Zombie, Werewolf Women of the S.S. is a World War II film about a group of Nazi scientists trying to create an army of superwomen when everything goes wrong. Starring Udo Kier, Sheri Moon Zombie, Sybil Danning, Bill Mosley, and Nicolas Cage hamming it up as Fu Manchu. Directed by Edgar Wright, Don't is a British horror film of the 1970s starring Jason Issacs, Matthew McFayden, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Emily Booth, and Stuart Wilson about a haunted house that scares everyone. Finally, there’s Eli Roth's Thanksgiving with Jordan Ladd, Michael Biehn, and Jay Hernandez about a cannibal plot to kill people for a cannibal Thanksgiving. All of these films will be coming soon.
Since this is a tribute to the grindhouse movies of the 1970s, one would think that a movie like Grindhouse would have something profound to say to its audience. Naaaahh... In many ways, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is essentially an old-school zombie movie with loads of references to John Carpenter with its cheesy, synthesizer music in some parts to its campy dialogue. Even the character of El Wray is a caricature of the heroes Kurt Russell played in his work with John Carpenter. Overall, Planet Terror never bores its audience with its suspense, action, and sexual innuendo. It just plays it straight with its array of gore, machine guns, explosions, everything. It works overall. Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is a part tribute to slasher films as well as car chase films of the 1970s, notably Vanishing Point. Now some audiences might be put off in some of the film's heavy, dialogue-driven conversations that comes in between the action sequences. Yet, those who know Tarantino is fully aware that his knack for fun dialogue is always done in great fun and are a joy to listen to.
The cinematic style of both films feature broken, scratchy film work that is done intentionally along with messed up sounds, dubs, and whatnot. Even in both films, there's scenes that are missing yet, I'm sure both directors will put them on the DVD. Both directors really just go for hard knocks in their style. Though Rodriguez did use visual effects for McGowan's leg and for some of the stunt work. Tarantino is more traditional in just using real stunts and real cars. Both Kurt Russell and Tracie Thoms drive the cars they are using in their battle. In truth, both directors plus Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright know what to expect from their audience. Nothing really overly intellectual. Something that everyone can enjoy. You want laughs. You got it. You want mindless sex and violence. That's there. You want cool stunts, gore, and everything you need in a fucking good motherfucking movie Then you fucking it Why? BECAUSE THIS IS MOTHERFUCKING GRINDHOUSE BITCH!!!!!
Both Tarantino and Rodriguez do their own cinematography where Tarantino's exterior shots are very wide open to convey the sunny side of Tennessee and Austin while the interior sequences are wonderfully colorful. Rodriguez's photography is more stylized with its darker colors to add to the film's genre style. Tarantino's longtime editor Sally Menke plays up to the film's unique energy in the car sequences while slowing it down for the conversation sequences with its longshots. Rodriguez and co-editor Ethan Maniquis also brings energy and style to the more fast-paced Planet Terror with some great and intentionally messy editing. Set decorator Jeanette Scott does some wonderful work in utilizing the locations while creating fantastic sets for both films. Costume designer Nina Proctor also does excellent work in creating the diverse costumes for the characters.
Visual effects supervisor Ryan Tuphole does some great work in creating some of the digital effects for the Planet Terror segment while makeup artists Rob Hinderton, Meredith Johns, and Darylin Nagy do great work on the gory look of the zombies. Sound designers Paula Fairfield and Carl Murray add to the film's tense, energetic atmosphere with some great sound work. For the score of Planet Terror, the film is dominated by snarling saxophone and guitar work from Robert Rodriguez along with cheesy, John Carpenter-like score music along with Graeme Revell's traditional, orchestral score. The music in Quentin Tarantino's is more of a soundtrack featuring 60s and 70s rock music plus a cut from legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone.
Finally, there's the cast and what a hell of a cast. Featuring fun cameos from Tarantino (in both segments), Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Sheri Moon Zombie, Sybil Danning, Udo Kier, Jason Issacs, Jay Hernandez, Eli Roth (also in the Death Proof segment), and Nicolas Cage in the trailers are fun to watch. From the Planet Terror segment, the small appearances from legendary horror film icon Tom Savini, El Mariachi's Carlos Gallardo, singer Stacy Ferguson, Julio Oscar Mechoso as Romey, Nicky Katt, and Michael Parks (also in Death Proof with son James) are a lot of fun to watch. Playing the Crazy Babysitter Twins (who also appear in Death Proof) are Electra and Elise Allevan (Rodriguez's nieces) are fun to watch along with Rodriguez's son Rebel as the Block's son. Bruce Willis makes a great appearance as Lt. Muldoon who reveals what he's done for his country. Lost's Naveen Andrews is great as the scientist Abby who carries a mean knife. Noted character actors Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn give two of some of the best performances as brothers fighting zombies with Fahey as a cook and Biehn as a sheriff. The two have great one liners and even make appearances in different trailers, they deserve more work.
Josh Brolin is wonderful as the villainous Dr. Block who later becomes a zombie wanting to kill his wife for her affairs. Marley Shelton is fun and sexy as the syringe-shooting Dakota Block who is one woman not to be messed with. In a role that is definitely inspired by Kurt Russell, Freddy Rodriguez gives a star-making performance as El Wray. Rodriguez steals nearly every scene he's in whether he's doing back flips, twirling guns, or anything. Rodriguez is the man!!! Finally, there's Rose McGowan returning to the cinema after a few years on TV for Charmed. McGowan is great and sexy as the back-talking, funny Cherry Darling who loses her leg and tries to find her way to fight back. Then when she gets that machine gun as a new leg, she really owns the film. It's a great, comeback performance from Rose McGowan who also does great work as Pam in the Death Proof segment.
In Death Proof, the small appearances from Michael Bacall, Monica Staggs, and Jonathan Loughran from Kill Bill are fun to watch. Jordan Ladd is great as the partying Shanna, Vanessa Ferlito as the New Yorker Arlene, and Sydney Tamiia Poitier is fun as the bitchy Jungle Julia. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good and cute as the cheerleading-wearing actress Lee who is the naive group of the bunch with Dawson, Bell, and Thoms who doesn't understand about the films of the past. Tracie Thoms is a lot of fun as the car-driving Kim with real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell is fun as herself. Rosario Dawson is great as the cautious turned angry Abernathy who uses her charm and wit to get the car.
Finally, there's Kurt Russell in what has to be an Oscar-worthy performance as Stuntman Mike. Russell starts off being laid back and cool but once he's in that car, he's a total badaass. Wait, there's two more characters cannot be missed. The cars. Playing Death Proof are the 1971 Chevy Nova SS and the 1969 Dodge Charger where as one, they're both badass looking cars that can destroy anyone. The other car, making his comeback after a 35-year sabbatical is the old-school 1970 white Dodge Challenger from the cult film Vanishing Point. That's a fucking beauty.
Grindhouse is a one absolutely enjoyable and adventurous double-feature from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. With two amazing movies and some great faux trailers from Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth, it's a film that really captures the glory and excitement of the Grindhouse movies. It has something for everyone. Tits, ass, cars, gore, zombies, fights, explosions, guns, good food, and lots of unadulterated violence!!!! In the end, Grindhouse is an experience that will give audiences one hell of a fucking time.
Quentin Tarantino Films: Reservoir Dogs - Pulp Fiction - Four Rooms: The Man from Hollywood - Jackie Brown - Kill Bill - Inglourious Basterds - Django Unchained - The Hateful Eight - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Related: The Auteurs #17: Quentin Tarantino - Growing Up with Quentin Tarantino
Robert Rodriguez Films: (El Mariachi) - (Roadracers) - (Desperado) - Four Rooms: The Misbehaviors - From Dusk Till Dawn - (The Faculty) - (Spy Kids) - (Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams) - (Spy Kids 3D: Game Over) - (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) - Sin City - (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D) - (Shorts) - (Machete) - (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World) - (Machete Kills) - (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For)
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