Directed by Robert Rodriguez ("Machete", "Planet Terror"), Rob
Zombie ("Werewolf Women of the SS"), Edgar Wright ("Don't"), Eli
Roth ("Thanksgiving") and Quentin Tarantino ("Death Proof").
Written by all of the guys above.
Starring Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell, and MANY others.
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 4/7/07
Between trailers for real movies, trailers
for fake movies, an ad for shitty fake Mexican food, and two
feature-length movies, "Grindhouse" is one hell of a sit at about
200 minutes. It's a production that turns out to be a mixed
bag for reasons detailed below, but this is worth seeing either
way...assuming that you have the stomach for pervasive blood, gore
"Grindhouse" was originally going to be just
two stand-alone movies that directors Robert Rodriguez ("Desperado",
"Sin City") and
Quentin Tarantino happened to be doing around the same time.
Then they decided to do this double feature bit, based on old-school
1970s double features that usually were shitty
action/adventure/revenge/kung-fu thrillers featuring people who were
never seen again. The idea is brilliant, and the trailers for
some fake 70s-style action & horror films are probably the best
thing about "Grindhouse."
Using many of the actors from other
Rodriguez & Tarantino productions, the trailers kick off with
"Machete", featuring long-time Rodriguez favorite Danny Trejo as a
Mexican man given the chance to dig himself out of shitty
hourly-wage jobs here in America by fulfilling a contract on a
politician's life; everything about this trailer is fucking perfect,
right down to the gratuitous shot of Machete (Trejo) fooling around
with two women in what looks like a waterfall for no good reason.
In between the two feature films, we get three more trailers and a
commercial for a Mexican restaurant that works mostly because of its
attachment to the past--apparently, all of these double features
back in the day used to promote shitty neighborhood restaurants.
The three additional trailers are also
perfect--featuring a horror theme throughout, we get contributions
from Tarantino protégé Eli Roth ("Hostel"
and "Cabin Fever"),
Edgar Wright (who did
of the Dead" & the upcoming
"Hot Fuzz") and Rob Zombie in
various fake movies that seem to feature an odd array of killing and
headless bodies. Featuring a couple of funny cameos and the
kind of voiceover work I just fucking love, these are the bits that
I'll watch again and again on the internet.
Trailers Rating: Opening Weekend
"Planet Terror" is exactly what the doctor
ordered when it comes to assessing what a 70s-style action film
should be about: pretty much nothing, as long as there is plenty of
T&A, needless profanity, senseless but continuous violence, and
actors so low-budget and shitty that they will (probably) never be
heard from again. Save for a cameo by Bruce Willis, this cast
is so C-list--in other words, perfect--that Rodriguez ought to be
nominated for some kind of genius filmmaking award for his work
here. Just casting Jeff Fahey alone (a B-movie meistro whose
recent credits include "Scorpius Gigantus", "Ghost Rock" and
"Locusts: The 8th Plague") makes "Planet Terror" a fucking work of
Centering around a zombie theme thanks to a
biological weapon that gets into the wrong hands of a madman, we get
a few characters to follow around in "Planet Terror." There's
Cherry (Rose McGowan), a stripper who works at a shitty club
somewhere in Texas and is at the end of her rope when it comes to
putting up with a shitty boss. Freddy Rodriguez stars as El
Wray, a stereotypical Man With a Past who was Cherry's former
boyfriend; we also get the (unhappily married) husband & wife duo of
Drs. William & Dakota Block (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton), who
are forced to put aside their differences for a little while so that
they can help members of the community with their strange zombifying
issues; and a sheriff (Michael Biehn) and his BBQ-shop-owning
brother (Fahey), who are along for the zombie-fighting ride.
Gloriously violent, "Planet Terror" rips off
nearly the entire zombie genre but somehow makes that work;
Rodriguez uses explosion and special effects so cheap that you'll
almost feel dirty yourself when it's over; almost everyone has a
voice that screams pulp from the start--husky, smoky, and deep; the
use of "dirtying" film effects (scratches in the visual and audio of
the film; green lines running down the middle throughout; shots that
are not lit right or centered correctly) makes the whole film look
cheap. It helps that the film is just a fun ride, and a
perfect 80 or 90-minute film...it's a lively production, one that
follows the fake trailer for "Machete" and gets the whole thing off
to a bangin' start. And, the machine-gun prosthetic that
Cherry has to wear after losing her leg to a zombie attack is easily
the coolest thing in "Grindhouse." Nothing's perfect, but
since most cheap action films of the 70s weren't either, "Planet
Terror" is the quintessential homage film.
"Planet Terror" Rating: Opening
After "Planet Terror" and four great
trailers for movies that we'll never see in real life--but who ISN'T
thinking about making "Werewolf Women of the SS" after seeing a fake
trailer for it?--Quentin Tarantino gets his turn to show off the
talent with the thriller "Death Proof."
Simply put, "Death Proof" pretty much killed
my "Grindhouse" experience. After you have done about two
hours in the theater up to the point that "Death Proof" begins, your
excitement level goes from a crazy high to a low so low that you
have to struggle a bit to remember that you loved this idea when it
first got started.
Why does this happen? The biggest
problem: the "Grindhouse" trailers and "Planet Terror" are light on
dialogue (and what IS there is really clipped, staccato lines),
heavy on fun visuals, action and laughs. "Death Proof" is as
chatty as anything Tarantino has done, which is saying a lot when
you think about all of the talking done in "Pulp Fiction" and
"Jackie Brown." To equate this more fully, going from "Planet
Terror" to "Death Proof" is like watching a fast-paced, high-scoring
Mavericks/Suns NBA game that goes to double-overtime, and then
watching the first round of a seniors PGA golf tournament; you can
almost GUARANTEE that you will fall asleep soon after the golf
tournament starts, and that almost happens while watching "Death
"Death Proof" is basically about a drifter
named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who stalks hot women in Austin
and hunts them down with his rollbar-safeguarded '71 black Chevy
Nova. The problem? We don't meet Mike for about 30
minutes to start "Death Proof", and before we meet him, the film is
essentially a slow burn as we meet his first potential victims,
played by an array of hotties including Sidney Poitier's daughter,
Vanessa Ferlito, and Jordan Ladd. After the Stuntman makes an
attempt on their lives soon after meeting them, we meet a second set
of women, who are making a film somewhere in (I believe) Tennessee.
These women--including Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and real-life
stuntwoman Zoë Bell (she was Uma Thurman's double in the "Kill Bill"
films)--get the chance to face down Mike in what ends up being a
somewhat-interesting car chase to close the film.
"Death Proof" could have probably been 45
minutes long and accomplished its goals a bit more efficiently, but
instead, it is double that in length and after the run-and-gun first
two hours of "Grindhouse", "Death Proof" just kills all the
momentum. Sure, it's loaded with lots of skin, but that skin
is just talking, talking, talking for so much time about so little
that is interesting that you are looking around for an editor as the
movie tries to desperately get to the finish line. That car
chase at the end is well shot (and, thankfully, light on talking,
talking, talking), but it's still nothing that daring or spectacular
(for the most part); the cool thing about it is mainly that it
features the derring-do of Bell, who spends about ten minutes
hanging on for dear life on the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger.
"Death Proof" Rating: Rental
Overall, "Grindhouse" would have been a much
better product if the Tarantino segment were replaced with another
schlocky 70s motif piece; something that was heavy blaxploitation or
badly-dubbed kung-fu, not a chatty chick flick mixed with a bloody
bang-up car wreck. As it is, you are truly best off watching
the trailers before and after "Planet Terror" and then leaving the
theater as soon as "Death Proof" begins. With the internet
these days and a DVD certain to be rolled out in the next three
months, you'll be able to see the two best clips from "Death Proof"
at a later date...and, you'll have saved yourself some time and
misery in the process.
Overall "Grindhouse" Rating:
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard