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Grindhouse

Released: 2007

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 3 hr 11 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie

Starring: Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodríguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Rebel Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Bruce Willis, Stacy Ferguson, Quentin Tarantino, Kurt Russell, Helen Kim, Nicolas Cage

Rodriguez and Tarantino back-to-back: The renegade auteurs pay homage to low-budget genre movies in this double feature.

A demonic ride chock full of the usual Tarantino flourishes.

Review by: JerrySaravia

Added: 7 years ago

"Grindhouse" is a reminder of the low-budget flicks of the late 60's and early to mid-late 70's - the kind of genre pictures that had an anything goes mentality. From everything like "Mondo Trasho" and its infinite kin of bizarre "Mondo" titles to those Pam Grier blaxploitation flicks to everything else in between, "Grindhouse" aims to remind us of those double features, that is two features for the price of one. In 1978, I recall seeing a martial-arts double feature with Bruce Lee in "Enter the Dragon" preceded by "Five Fingers From Death." There were the usual trailers followed by those colorful, rainbowesque signs that read "Coming Attractions" or "Your Feature Presentation." And naturally, these movies were delivered from one theatre to another without much care, thus bad splices or bad sound were a part of the experience. Not only is "Grindhouse" a fitting reminder of all that, it is also far more entertaining than most recent, supposed grade-Z material that is given the A or B treatment.

The first feature is "Planet Terror," directed by Robert Rodriguez, a truly nasty, disgusting pile of drivel that is as dirty and violent as one might expect, in addition to dementedly funny and frantically deranged. Rose McGowan is a stripper named Cherry Darling, who quits her job since she gets too emotional on stage and really wants to be a comedian! Before you can say Elizabeth Berkley, there are flesh-eating zombies running amok in this movie, thanks to some military experiment gone wrong, presumably. Oh, who cares about a plot when you have an evil doctor (Josh Brolin, who acts and sounds just like his father) who has a way with thermometers; his wife who has a way with syringes; Tarantino as a serial rapist who gets one of the best comeuppances in movie history; Bruce Willis as some colonel or sergeant who holds a secret about Bin Laden; a crazy chemist who has a fixation on collecting severed testicles; Jeff Fahey as J.T., with the best barbecue sauce in town (this actor has improved with age), and Michael Biehn as a sheriff who has almost seen it all. Oh, yes, and let's not forget the deliberately drawn-out syllables of Michael Parks in his recurring role as Sheriff Earl McGraw, future Texas Ranger.

We then get some deliciously funny trailers after "Planet Terror" is over, which are better seen than described. The second feature begins as Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" (also known as "Thunderbolt" if you look closely), a less deranged and far more talky exploitation picture that exceeds anything anyone might have expected. Kurt Russell is the "Stroker Ace" former stunt car driver, Stuntman Mike, who has an obsession with women, their feet, and killing them with his deadly car that comes emblazoned with a skull on its hood. I have reviewed the film "Death Proof" in its extended cut, so what we miss in this slightly abbreviated version is a hell-on-fire, hypnotic lapdance that is almost as good as the one in "Femme Fatale," and perhaps more refined than the laughable one in "Showgirls" (the latter, a favorite of Tarantino's).

The rest of the film is a demonic ride chock full of the usual Tarantino flourishes, including pop-culture referential talk about "Vanishing Point," lapdances, the TV series "The Virginian," foreign fashion magazines, relationships, etc. All this builds some tension before Stuntman Mike pounces on his latest female victims, including a celebrity hairdresser (Rosario Dawson); two stuntwomen (Zoe Bell, playing herself, and Tracie Thoms, from TV's "Cold Case") who speak adoringly of the cult classic "Vanishing Point"; and an actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who loves John Hughes movies. Rose McGowan also appears, albeit as a different character, a blonde who takes a liking to the daredevil stuntman. Big mistake.

Some critics have lashed at Tarantino's film, for having too much dialogue and little of the pleasures that one might expect from "Planet Terror." I see "Planet Terror" as a more conscious, straightforward homage to exploitation pictures and zombie classics like "Dawn of the Dead," whereas "Death Proof" is closer to what some horror/serial killer movies, such as "Deranged" and even "Last House on the Left," offered - dialogue and some character exposition before settling in to the violence and a slasher mentality. Though Tarantino and Rodriguez have done their conscious homages to their favorite movies of the 60's and 70's for well over a decade now, this is the first time they have truly approximated the look of those films. If I nitpick at all, it is that this double feature movie-movie, over three hours long, might prove to be exhausting but it is clever and it will give you a major adrenalized high that you don't get from a lot of Hollywood product.

Some audiences have never lived through the grindhouse experience to know what it felt like to watch such movies on a double bill in a run-down theatre, with audiences hooting and hollering. "Grindhouse" may be the first and last time we get to experience it in retro-style. The audience didn't turn out for this pure entertainment in theatres, but I have a feeling it will be a cult classic.