Monday, September 24, 2007


^That's got to be one of the hottest things I've ever seen on screen.

Rewatching Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, I still think it's probably Tarantino's least movie, and I still think it's pretty great. There are spots where the patented Tarantino Dialogue, for the first time, starts to get on my nerves, and there are little bits that seem like they have serve no purpose, but it's hard not to be entertained while watching these girls strut around in Daisy Dukes and listening to the great soundtrack.

If Kill Bill is comparable to Paul's Boutique--a perfect piece of entertainment crafted entirely from samples--then Death Proof is more like Check Your Head--a loose, experimental work that has some parts that fall a little flat, but adds up to a fascinating whole.

The "missing reels" that have been restored for the DVD are pretty cool. I thought "Hold Tight," the song that plays during the fatal car crash, was about the best song Tarantino could possibly dig up, but the song that Butterfly lapdances to ("Down in Mexico" by The Coasters) might be even better. And I really like the convenience store scene (no reason at all for it to be in black and white, though. That's just showy). Getting the Italian Vogue isn't really necessary to the story, but it struck me as a very funny bit.

Watching this again, my favorite thing, which nobody else seems to be focusing on, is what a hilarious character Stuntman Mike is. He's the embodiment of phony machismo, and when the mask of overwrought masculinity falls off and he immediately starts whining like a baby, it's really a pretty awesome bit of comedy acting on Kurt Russell's part.

Russell spends most of the movie strutting around in a studied, tough guy cool borrowed from Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, little bits of Elvis (like all Tarantino characters) and...Kurt Russell. It's no coincidence that, when he's making his big move on Butterfly, he slips into a John Wayne imitation, donning our culture's most machoized persona, as it were.

Look at the scene where Pam gets in his car. He explains the whole deathproofing process, in which he's basically locking himself into an armored car. He's got a thick wall of plexiglass protecting him from his passenger. Yeah, this is one tough motherfucker. He can kill girls by running them down with what is, for all intents and purposes, a tank! Or he can lick their toes while they're asleep.

Is Stuntman Mike even a stuntman? On the one hand, he does seem to be speaking as a Tarantino surrogate when he's explaining to Pam about car crashes and stuntwork in the movies. And he does have what seems to be a stuntman's car. But it seems very purposeful to have the bartender say he doesn't know whether Mike is telling the truth or just bullshitting. It would make a lot of sense for the whole stuntman trip to be just another part of his mask of bullshit masculinity, and makes a lot of sense in the context of the second half--"Stuntman" Mike thinks he's a badass, until he meets The Real Thing.

I like this idea of Tarantino subverting the macho cinema that he so loves, and that so many adolescent (in either the literal or mental sense) males seem so obsessed with. "Yeah, we get to masturbate to Kurt Russell's badassness again! Wait, he's a pussy! WTF?" It's almost an "answer movie" to the idiotic (but very entertaining and beautifully composed, let me just say) 300.

The one really big problem I have with the movie is the girls leaving Lee with the hillbilly, and going so far as to put sexual ideas in his head before they leave. Bobbie said something like, no real woman would do that, or no woman would have written that scene (I can't quite remember, it was after seeing it the first time), and I have to agree. It did put me off a bit. The other obvious complaint is that there were at least two opportunities where they could have let Zoe back in the car after losing Stuntman Mike, and failed to do so, but I can accept that, since it would have negated so much of what the movie was set up to do.

I also want to point out that Rosario Dawson does really good work in this. Tarantino's lines never sound anything less than natural coming out of her mouth.


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