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Death Proof

Kurt Russell in Death Proof, part of Grindhouse

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DEATH Proof originally formed one half of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ill-fated Grindhouse project – a double bill that gleefully celebrated the exploitation flicks of the ’60s and ’70s complete with missing reels and scratched film.

But after that crashed at the box office almost as spectacularly as one of Stuntman Mike’s cars the decision was taken [by The Weinstein Company] to split them in half.

In revamped form, Death Proof is a fuller bodied experience that revs up the sexiness and bumps up the slick dialogue before accelerating its way into a [literally] smashing finish.

And yet for die-hard Grindhouse enthusiasts it still feels like it’s missing something (namely, zombie homage Planet Terror and those much-hyped fake trailers)!

It’s almost ironic, then, that Death Proof still feels like two movies – both featuring Kurt Russell’s heavily scarred Stuntman Mike. The first finds the mysterious loner hanging out with a buxom group of young women at a bar in Austin, Texas, before arranging an “accident” that only he will surrive.

The second repeats the formula, only with the roles reversed as the women in question – played by Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell – turn the tables on their attacker and seek bloody revenge.

It’s a simple set-up but executed with the kind of sick relish that we’ve come to expect from a Tarantino vehicle.

The nods to other movies fly thick and fast, with everything from Vanishing Point and Convoy to the film of Russ Meyer winked at along the way, while the dialogue is as smooth flowing and dynamic as ever… and backed by a pumped up, retro-laced soundtrack to lend it an even funkier edge.

Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike is another rogue to sit alongside the likes of Snake Plissken and RJ MacReady without any of the redemptive qualities, while his car is a super-charged death trap in waiting, complete with a filthy roar of an engine.

Of the women, Rose McGowan, Sydney Poitier and Vanessa Ferlito stand out as the first victims, positively purring their way towards a date with death, before Dawson, Thoms and real-life stuntwoman turned actress Bell arrive to dish out a very cold revenge in exemplary fashion.

Anyone that’s been lucky enough to see Grindhouse will enjoy the added material in Death Proof, especially the missing reel (aka the lap dance) and more of Stuntman Mike’s stalking games, while newcomers can savour the fine balance between the talking and the action.

And boy does QT deliver on the set pieces – first with an astonishingly brutal depiction of Stuntman Mike’s first crash and then with an extended chase sequence that’s as bone-crunchingly real as they come (and deliberately free of any CGI enhancement).

It provides a breathtaking finale to an expertly staged homage that just keeps getting better the more you think about it.

There are, of course, those who accuse it of being horrifically self-indulgent and brazenly exploitative – but with Tarantino that’s kind of the point, right down to extended cameos for both himself and director buddy Eli Roth (the weakest elements of the movie).

So, while Death Proof won’t convert the Tarantino sceptics it will delight just about everyone else. It’s just a shame that it arrives stripped of the full Grindhouse experience.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 114mins