Death Proof (18)

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
On general release from 21st September 2007

Reviewed by Jon Stevens

Death Proof is essentially, in the director's own words, "the same fucking story told twice”. Tarantino's 'stab' at the slasher genre hit UK shores this week an additional twenty-five minutes of footage to the version seen by our U.S. counterparts. This came as the result as of the unexpected negative response to the previously highly anticipated and mouthwatering prospect of Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double bill. "People just hated it!" concedes Tarantino.

That’s unfortunate perhaps for U.K. audiences, who have avidly supported Tarantino since his first release Reservoir Dogs fifteen years ago. However sans Planet Terror (Rodriguez's 'half' of the double bill), Death Proof still offers more than a fair share of trademark Tarantino action. Razor sharp dialogue: CHECK! Strong sassy 'chicks': CHECK! An unhealthy dollop of uber violence: CHECK! The obligatory foot fetish closeup and many a 'homage' to some of the director’s own influences: CHECK! Even the way the film is shot is a homage to the exploitation films that Tarantino so often namechecks. The result is so convincing that it’s not until Jungle Julia's mobile telephone beeps with a text message that its clear the film is set in the here and now rather than the seventies and eighties, when many of those slasher films were made.

Slasher-with-a difference Stuntman Mike is an unnerving character - a cold calculating, homicidal maniac who gets his kicks from...well you'll see how he gets his kicks! He also happens to be sharp, witty and at times even cool! Death Proof hinges on Mike's two very similar attempts on the lives of two very similar groups of young starlet girls. However, with the second group (featuring Sin City's Rosario Dawson, and Uma Thurman's Kill Bill stunt double, Zoe Bell), he looks to have bitten off more than he can chew. The first half of the film plays out mostly with dialogue reminiscent of 'that' opening diner scene in Reservoir Dogs or 'that' burger scene in Pulp Fiction - funny, crude, largely irrelevant, real! But when the action kicks in it really kicks! Filmed in real time with no CGI, the chases and stunts really do have the audience on the edge of the seats peering aghast through their hands.

The fact that the director himself was perched behind the lens as the cars hurtle along at breakneck speed is something he's only to keen to draw attention to as he introduces the film. He is also keen to stress the role Zoe Bell plays...performing her own stunts now in her own role. The fact that Tarantino was there to offer his insights and introduction was a major coup for FACT and also for Liverpool as a city. The fact that the director specifically asked for a Liverpool venue to be included on this promotional tour also highlights the draw the city still has. Indeed, he practically had to have the plug pulled after an hour and a half of questions and answers following the feature, enthusiastic as ever, clearly in his element talking about films. It’s this enthusiasm and love for film that makes Tarantino what he is, one of the world’s finest directors, and following the disappointment of the Grindhouse double bill which seemed to show a vulnerability in his previous Midas touch, Death Proof is the proof that the director is still charging along at the top of his game.

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