I am a huge Robert Rodriguez fan and admire Tarantino. So of course I went into this double feature with high expectations, and gladly those expectations were met. Robert Rodriguez is one of those directors who inspires us wannabe filmmakers because he basically came from nothing and knows how to make an entertaining flick. Grindhouse was an idea created by Rodriguez after finishing up Sin City. Since Sin City was a real collaborative effort that included three directors he thought why not do something else like that. He approached his good friend Quentin and proposed that he makes one movie and then Quentin would make one another. They would put them together and mimic the good ol' days where double-bill exploitation films were a huge market. A double-bill feature is basically getting two movies for the price of one, and since that's the case the movie itself was usually an exploitation piece. Exploitation films can be defined as over the top action or horror flicks that were made on shoestring budgets and relatively looked past any artistic merit in good fun. They were known as exploitation films because their advertising campaign was as over the top as the films themselves and would exploit violence and sex to sell the movie. These were the movies that inspired Rodriguez and Tarantino to become filmmakers, so we can rest assured these guys know what they are doing.
Grindhouse is an experience from beginning to end and it will have you roaring with laughter and even excite you to the edge of your seat. Planet Terroris the first film that is up. Robert Rodriguez delivers an excessive gore-fest zombie movie that is just brilliant. Every character is sharp and the zombie action is great. The gore is over the top and will make you squirm and yell in good fun. The best part is the overall look of the film. Artificial grain and scratches are added to bring the look home. Back in the 70's only a few prints of a film would circulate through 2nd run venues, so they would deteriorate quickly thus rendering the picture quality quite poor. We get "missing reels", jumps in audio, discoloration, and a whole other slew of film deterioration. The film itself is pretty damn funny at times just because it's so over the top. It also wouldn't be a Rodriguez film without the awesome score also composed by Rodriguez. The main theme is similar in style to what he did for Sin City, but the rest is very in character for the movie. The film also has plenty of "easter-eggs" for Rodriguez fans. The man likes to reuse actors so you will recognize some faces from his earlier films. There are also great references such as naming the title character El Wray, which is quite similar to El Mariachi. There is a scene in the film where two babysitters are listening to some music and of course the song is "Se Me Paro" By Rodriguez's band Chingon. The best reference of all is not in his film but in his fake trailer that airs before the film. The trailer is for a film called Machete and stars Danny Trejo who of course was in Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Danny Trejo is Machete who is a reincarnation of his role of Najavos from Desperado. We even have a scene in the trailer where he chucks machetes into the sunroof of a limo, an exact scene from Desperado. The best part is that the trailer may not be fake after all since Rodriguez has shown a lot of interest in making it into a straight to video movie.
After Planet Terror we are treated to more hilarious fake trailers from directors like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth. The trailers show exactly why this genre was known as exploitation. The best part is the cameo by Nicolas Cage which will have you slapping your knee.
Quentin Tarantino is up next with Death Proof. Tarantino introduces the character of Stuntman Mike who likes to basically murder women with his car for pleasure. Kurt Rusell was the perfect choice for the role. Tarantino gets to flex his writing muscles with some great "toungue in cheek" dialogue. Tarantino himself as well as director Eli Roth make cameos and of course he had to throw in a reference to Big Kahuna Burger (ahem! Pulp Fiction anyone? "That is a tasty burger"). The film starts off as a very atmospheric piece. He tones down on the film deterioration, only throwing in a few noticeable bad splices and overlapped audio. The film actually turns into an incredibly tense ride with a car chase that will make you tighten your grip on your armrests. There are definitely some breathtaking scenes that will make you wonder who agreed to do some of the stunts. The best part is how Tarantino changes Kurt Russell's character from badass to wimp. It's amazing how he grabs you as tight as he can and then just let go at the very end so you can laugh. The best dialogue scene in the film is an incredibly long single take conversation between the leading women of the film. The scene is a conversation at a diner and it's done in one amazing take. The camera just circles around them for about 10 minutes as they talk about great classic car chase films like Gone In Sixty Seconds (the original) and Vanishing Point. Tarantino fans will also acknowledge his great selection of music to fit the movie.
It is clear that we here are seeing two movie fans making movies, but what else is more fun? Rodriguez's film is more fun than serious and Tarantino's is a bit more on the serious side that eventually lightens up to a brilliant and ironic conclusion. Grindhouse may put off some people who are not familiar with the exploitation genre and the archetypes that are associated with those films. It may also turn off people who are not necessarily fans of Rodriguez or Tarantino. In the end this is the most fun you can have at the movies, so make sure you see it at the theater because the home viewing experience will never match.
In terms of acting this is merely a bunch of friends getting together and having fun with the material. Most of the actors in both of these films have worked with the directors before. In the spirit of exploitation films the directors also share actors and even share sets. Freddy Rodriguez steals the show as El Wray in Planet Terror and of course Kurt Russell steals the show in Death Proof. The cast is perfect in every way and you can tell they had a load of fun making these movies.
Grindhouse is a cinephile's orgasm. You will have so much fun with these movies as long as you know the reference material. The whole deal runs around 3 hours and 15 minutes, but there is not a dull moment in all of it. The only thing I wonder is if we will get extended versions of the both of these movies on DVD. If you watch the teaser trailer you will catch a glimpse of a lap dance scene from Death Proof. In the final theatrical cut that scene is humorously replaced with a "missing reel" slide. I know that the films were trimmed as to not get an NC-17 rating, but I have a feeling that we will be getting more on DVD and I can't wait. Until then you may as well go rent some Dario Argento and Roger Corman, or maybe rent Escape From New York and see why Kurt Russell was cast.