Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Premise: Presented theatrically as the second half of Grindhouse. A psychotic Hollywood stuntman (Kurt Russell) stalks and kills attractive young women with his car.
What Works: Death Proof is a film about the slasher genre, replacing the chainsaw or the machete with a car. This film is much less metatextual than anything else in Tarantino’s career. That said, Tarantino does show a knowledge of the politics of the slasher subgenre, especially the underlying sexual themes, and uses it to enrich the relationship of the killer to his victims. Death Proof is less about reinventing or criticizing genre than about having fun with it and alluding to the grindhouse and road films of the 1970s. With its intentional missing reels, defects, and cigarette burns, the film is more about taking joy in the B-movie. Death Proof has one of the greatest car chases ever filmed, on par with those of Bullit, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Blues Brothers. The main characters of Death Proof are cast and crew members on break from an off screen movie and here Tarantino shows some growth from his other films; instead of gangsters or other underworld figures, the characters are relatively normal women. They are movie-obsessed and talk in Tarantino’s style but they are healthy and apparently decent human beings.
What Doesn’t: Borrowing a page from Psycho, Death Proof has a false first act. Whether the false first act is a skillful act of storytelling or a cheap trick is debatable. Also, the film was originally shown as the second half of the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse, which was a film in which the whole was bigger than the sum of its parts. Death Proof loses a lot in its separation from the original context.
DVD extras: The version of Death Proof available on DVD is longer than the theatrical cut. The DVD includes featurettes, trailers, and image galleries.
Bottom Line: Death Proof is an interesting film with some considerable flaws. The film is a little wobbly in its direction and focus but it is fun to watch.
Episode: #253 (August 30, 2009)