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Death Proof (2007)

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

   Excitement is surly filling the air as I plan on doing the Grindhouse double feature Death Proof/Planet Terror. While I’m almost certain that Planet Terror was intended to be seen first, having the movies interlock with one another, it’s mentioned in the film (if paid enough attention) that a song is dedicated in Jungle Julia’s memory. So I decided to do this one first. Being a huge fan of Tarantino I do plan on going a bit off script and adding a bit more information of the movie since I usually get lost in his special features.

Known for being great at creating worlds and displaying them in a matter that can be matched to seeing something so attractive, needing to be around its presence. The movie opens with an authentic Grindhouse feel immediately, noting that instead of digitally scratching the film, it had been physically scratched adding an extra essence. Getting the idea for the film while trying to buy a Volvo and a suggestion of having a group of stunt men take it out and death proofing it up. Of which he took the idea of and added 6 equally beautiful tough women, an addicting soundtrack and Kurt Russell to assemble a chronological but fast paced tale of a murderous man whose weapon was his vehicle.

The first group of girls Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) stalks are a bit more laid back. Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) are on their way to pick up their DJ friend, Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) planning to go out to Shanna’s father’s lake house for the weekend. They begin the day driving out to a restaurant in Austin, Texas where they have some drinks mixed with conversation. An old friend of Julia’s stops by for a quick chat and initiates conversation with Arlene who she says “must be butterfly.” A moment of confusion of Arlene’s part as Julia states that she had mentioned her on the radio earlier. Claiming if that if they would do a little something, she’d do a little something back. Acting out the scenario with teasing wordplay ending in Arlene learning if approached and bought a drink, followed by a recited poem; a lap dance would be her thanks. But promised only for the first guy who approached, leaving room for refusal on Arlene’s part.

Waiting outside we see Russell’s character continuing his watch over the girls, getting amusement from the drunken notions while leaving the restaurant. Ending up at the Texas Chili Parlor; watch for the cameo of Robert Rodriguez’s nieces as they enter the bar and later are behind Ferlito as she performs her lap dance. We get a great shot of Poitier swaying her long gorgeous hair to Baby it’s You by Smith. Her great figure to match and vast array of music knowledge making her an enticing character to follow. Also having a side story involving Chris Simonson who she’s seen texting briefly through. Having a tougher than nails attitude but relinquishing it for someone who we hear has only let her down. It’s a rare and random insight that some may see unnecessary however helped in creating the sense that these girls also have unfinished business and were not just the alluded party animals.

All the while Arlene consistently taking notice to Russell’s car. Inside while Staggolee’s Pacific Gas & Electric set the mood we are finally shown Stuntman Mike interacting with the other characters. Keeping a keen eye on the girls in the corner and overhearing the guys currently hanging out with being “very convincing” and ordering drinks in a fairly rapid order so as to get them to lake LBJ later in the night. The guys were Dov (Eli Roth), Nate (Omar Doom) and Omar (Michael Bacall). While they don’t get all that much screen time the conversation between Dov and Omar at the bar was a great bit in which Roth delivered the lines with perfect comedic timing. Yet another great feat always achieved in Tarantino’s films. He obtains an expected and always achieved great dialogue between every cast member involved and doesn’t need to revert to a high level of energy, just because. There’s always quips galore and is filled with such an enriched story, even though we only see snippets of these worlds. But they always add up.

Side character Pam (Rose McGowan) asks Warren, (Quentin Tarantino) the owner, if there was anyone he could vouch for in offering a ride home. In which Mike tosses his cars down the bar offering his assistance. Later encountering the group of girls outside inquiring as to whether Julia was “famous or something.” Taking his time in making his presence known to the group, he goes back to the bar and comes back out with the intention of performing the earlier script suggested for Butterfly. Russell delivered his lines with remarkable presence in his teasing manner to get Arlene to change her mind about dance. A scene that was improvised by both Quentin and Ferliton as she dances to “Down in Mexico” by The Coasters. (which is actually impossible to not move to once heard) By the end I was fanning myself off by the sexy confidence and looks she kept passing to Russell while dancing around him.

Stuntman Mike is clearly a bored and deranged old man getting his kicks. Tarantino being proof enough alone that you don’t need giant monsters in costumes to create fear, setting up great death scenes with multiple angles in the first round. Before the second half of the movie begins we see Stuntman Mike in the hospital recovering from his wounds and get a bit of Planet Terror’s side with Michael Parks and Marley Shelton playing the same characters. Parks is certainly no stranger to Quentin’s films by this point and  is used once again for a subtle break in the script. Devoting the time to hearing his take on what may be going on, knowing it would be damn near impossible to prove but he could at least ensure this disaster never happened in his town again.

We pick back up 14 months later in Tennessee and notice our antagonist is back on his feet with a new ride and some new targets. Overhearing a conversation take place between Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Kim (Tracie Thoms) of an encounter with the “Rock” and picking up a few things at the corner store. With their other friend Abernathy, (Rosario Dawson) the three were headed to the airport to pick up Zoe (Zoe Bell). Unknowingly posing for their soon to be intruder, we are taken into the car were we find all four girls happening to work within the movie industry and each having the next 3 days off. Continued playful conversation similar to the first group of girls is ongoing while on their way to a diner to catch up on old times. Zoe later stating the reason of interest was a 1970 Dodge Challenger and not wanting to miss the opportunity of driving it while in town.

When they arrive take notice to Jonathan Loughran, seen in the majority of Adam Sandler’s films. Planning on playing a forbidden game of “ships masters” Zoe and Kim try to explain to Abernathy how her and Lee were going to stay behind while they test drove the car. Wanting to hear nothing of the sort and counter offering with if able to convince the seller to let only Lee stay behind, she could partake on whatever it was they were planning. Abernathy proves to be persuasive as the three set off and after driving for some time make a stop in order to prepare. Kim and Zoe seem to appreciate a good thrill from time to time with Stuntman Mike finally meeting his match and initiating what turns out as an almost 20 minute car chase scene. Confusion and fear fill the air as poor Zoe is thrown around the hood like some useless ornament. Coming to a brief stop and feeling victorious the stuntman isn’t prepared for what happens next. Taking a shot right to the arm, he screams out in pain and drives off in a hurry. A new plan ensuing in which the three woman feel revenge is a dish best served with pain as they chase after the maniac, with the tables now turned. Quentin usually portrays strong female characters (a reason to throw on top of all the others of what I like about him) and certainly delivers 6 fold in this action thriller.

Mad Facts: ~Original title considered was “Thunder Bolt”

~In the first half Russel’s character has Baby it’s you playing in his car; the second half having Winstead singing the same tune while waiting in the car

~The term “double fucks” used by McGowan streamed from working on Planet Terror while trying to get into character and having Tarantino and Rodriguez constantly interrupt

~Michael Parks calls Shelton’s character Dr. Blonde (reference to Reservoir Dogs)

~Billboards of Jungle Julia (dressed as The Bride in Kill Bill)

~Second half features a car in similar paint scheme of The Bride as well; the ringtone is the same as heard throughout Kill Bill

~The diner scene in the second half is one continuous shot lasting about 7 minutes

~Zoe Bell was able to perform her own stunts; being an awesome bad-ass like that