Directors: Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)
Cast: Planet Terror – Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, Electra and Elise “The Crazy Babysitter Twins” Avellan
Death Proof – Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Eli Roth, Monica Staggs, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Quentin Tarantino
Machete Trailer – Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey
Synopsis: Finally, Grindhouse is released in Australia as it was always intended. A collaborative project between Rodriguez and Tarantino, this two-for-the-price-of-one double feature is a tribute to the B grade exploitation films that played mainly in American cinemas in the ’70s and 80’s. We are talking guns, girls, gears, and gore galore. The experiment also included scratching up the print and having missing film reels as was often the case back in the day. Unfortunately, the experiment failed in the US, so Australia only got to see the two films individually. An error corrected with the BluRay release, with fake trailers also inserted back in where they belong.
If you did not get the idea from the synopsis, it is almost with a sense of relief that Grindhouse has been released as originally intended. That is something I have been waiting for, and have done so for many years now. I refused to see the films at the cinema because I was not going to pay twice for what should be a single feature. I only bought the individual films on DVD when the price had dropped low enough for them to equal two-for-the-price-of-one. Yet being separate I think damages both films, as it is now clear that in separating them a good part of the magic and tone was lost.
Individually, they are not brilliant films. They have paper-thin plot, a cast bursting with some of the most attractive women on-screen today, and with over-the-top production values and way much more gore than can possibly exist in a human body… and that is the whole point of the experiment. The films were never meant to be taken seriously. They are all about popcorn. They are about teenage boys ogling fine female forms. They are about seeing images you do not get elsewhere (for instance, an amputee go-go dancer with a machine gun for a prosthetic leg), and they are about real stunts, edge of your seat action in the absence of CGI. Bringing the films together with over-the-top trailers, including Machete which was later made into its own feature which I have reviewed previously, Grindhouse sings in all of its exploitation glory.
Planet Terror is a zombie movie, with McGowan as the aforementioned amputee go-go dancer Cherry, and one that is actually an entertaining character as well as a punchline, Rodriguez is the classic outlaw hero type El Wray whom has a history with Cherry, Brolin is a doctor whom terrorises his anaesthetist wife, played by Marley Shelton, and there are a number of great cameos, including Willis and Tarantino. As for plot, we have a group of survivors trying to escape a zombie outbreak… that’s it!
Death Proof is Tarantino’s homage to the classic car chase movie, with a focus on real stunts as opposed to CGI. The impact of this approach is breath-taking (pardon the pun). There is a clear difference to the action on display here than there is in any CGI car chase filmed in recent years. Russel is Stuntman Mike, a psycho with a car that he has manufactured to be death proof… for him anyway. He gets his rocks off causing attractive girls to get into horrendous accidents. Ans that is the role most of the females in this film play, except when he meets real-life Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell (playing herself) and her friends Kim (Thom) and Abernathy (Dawson). Russell really gets the joke in this film, and hams it up delightfully. Being from south of the equator myself, it was great hearing Zoe’s native Kiwi accent up there, as well as seeing her play a classically delightful Kiwi personality type. She lights up the scenes she is in, even when playing being in danger. But the film in the end is not about actors, it is about cars, and the chase scenes really kick arse.
I can acknowledge how Grindhouse did not find success on its initial release. If you went in not knowing what to expect, just wanting a traditional film with a Tarantino or Rodriguez bent, then this film may have exceeded many people’s sensibilities. In the end, if you are reading this review and are thinking “this sounds so cool, get a copy of Grindhouse at the earliest convenience. If you are not convinced yet though, chances are you never will be, so I advise you save your money!!
4.5 stars out of 5
Grindhouse on IMDB
Grindhouse on Rotten Tomatoes