2 May 2008 | DaveDiggler
Quentin Tarantino at his Best and Worst
Only a Tarantino film can give you the feeling of pure boredom and electric intensity all at the same time. Both can come of simple conversation and over-the-top action. "Death Proof" is the quintessential Tarantino film, where he has long, drawn out conversations that are constantly interrupted yet free flowing and very natural as the characters talk about everyday things (pop culture) and use quirky old sayings. Tarantino is easily the greatest writer you could think of for pure dialogue and even though that's his greatest asset, it's also his biggest flaw. The film is cut into two halves and the first half is excellent. The ending is great (in both halves), but man, did that middle nearly put you to sleep or what?!?! It's not that it was incredibly boring material. The problem was: This was two similar movies smashed into one, with a ton of common parallels, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), being the main figure. The second half doubles back on the first half; ultimately repeating itself. The women are powerful. They can control men because men are pigs and only think with their little heads as the women in charge tease them with their sexuality. Even though the girls aren't whores, they surely push the limits because when they don't put out, they'll get a guys respect- a common theme with both the first half and the second coming from eight different women who all think the same. The standout female performance came from Vanessa Ferlito (Arlene) who brought a certain flare to the screen that made the viewer care for her more than anyone else. She nailed this performance and carried the first half along with Russell.
The dialogue (and there is a ton of it) is, as usual, captivating at the start. "Death Proof" is a faller, not a riser, but the action packed ending is strong enough to give this fair remarks. This is a common issue with Tarantino. "Kill Bill Vol. 2" may have had the longest, most drawn out ending this side of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," and the worst part is that we know exactly what's going to happen, because, like most Tarantino films, the women usually come out on top. The first half of the film is flawless. The conversation is perfect. The mysteriousness of Stuntman Mike- who has a thing for car crashes and testing the "death proof" slogan that goes along with his "scary" car- is great and the best part is that we never know where the movie is going to end (Or at least this story). Kurt Russell actually gave a very strong performance. His look was great and when he imitates John Wayne that should crack everyone up even if they don't know what John Wayne sounded like. The ending to the first half of the movie is great and the look of the picture is incredible as Tarantino pays homage to the 70s style look. You have random cutaways, intentionally poor editing where the conversation will skip, double back, and some parts will completely cut away (During a lap dance, too) at what feels like an inopportune time, but that's what makes it so great. The texture and overall look is dazzling right from the very first shot of one of the girls feet rockin' away- to a modernized Scorsese styled, catchy beat- on the dashboard against a light blue sky. Tarantino, stylistically, has a style all his own and this was great to see.
The second half of the film brings in four more women that walk, talk, and act just like the four we seen in the first half. The film doubles back on itself and repeats the first half over again, just with different girls. The conversations are the same (all about sex), but there's one difference: "these girls will fight back." That will bring us to a wonderful stunt worked, high speed, well choreographed, and even better shot car chase that just doesn't want to end and I guess, in a way, that's okay. We deserve to indulge in a thrilling sequence for as long as it was after Tarantino toyed with our concentration and focus; dulling us with repetitive banter. Zoe Bell, the stunt women, had too many speaking parts. She's not a good actress where the first group of girls were much, much better and more engrossing. The last four girls weren't all that effective (Maybe because we seen it all before just minutes earlier). The final sequence will leave you laughing, not only because it's ridiculous, but how long it lasts and the camera work along with Russell' face is very funny. "Death Proof" was, for the most part, an enjoyable film, but this same old Tarantino song and dance is running on thin ice. Conversation, as always, in a Tarantino film is starting to take over more than ever for plot and the second half of "Death Proof" nearly ruins a nearly flawless first half. There's not much here in regards of plot and a lot of people are going to be getting sick of tired, pointless, going-no-where talk. It's time Tarantino reinvents himself.