The Tarantino Death Proof Rant
Let's get something straight right off the bat, I'm a huge Quentin Tarantino fan and it drives me nuts when people don't "get" his films. But I just watched "Death Proof" on DVD (Tarantino's half of the double feature "Grindhouse") and I've gotta tell ya, I just didn't get it. I mean, it's not that I hated it or anything, I found it interesting and I'd probably even give it a 6 or 7 out of 10, but it simply didn't blow me away like all of his previous films have. And Tarantino films are supposed to blow you away. Period.
For the first time ever I was left with an empty feeling after watching one of his films. And Tarantino just doesn't leave you with empty feelings. That's not what he does. Most telling of all, after watching this I had absolutely no desire to rush out and see it again. And, hey, I'm the guy who saw "Kill Bill" four bloody times in a few short months... and, hell, that was just Vol. 1!!! And then I saw Vol 2 twice. And I still want to see both of them again... and again.
I suppose if you're really really into car chases, like Quentin says he is in the DVD extras, then maybe this is something special, but to me it really doesn't feel all that much more than the cheap B, or D, grade exploitation films that it's paying homage to. Ok, so maybe that's going a bit far, but still, it simply wasn't a transformative piece of work like all of his previous films have been. What I'm trying to say here is that it was a real big let down.
Yeah, yeah, there was definitely some fantastic, and fully absorbing, Tarantino dialogue; there was, as always, lots of great obscure music; there was some good acting; there were some pretty cool scenes; and, yes, there were even some undeniable flashes of brilliance... but something was missing. Where was the heart and soul in this thing? Never thought I'd say this about a Tarantino film, but at times it seemed pointless. Or even self-indulgent. And, regardless of what some anti-Tarantino critics may have said in the past, I don't think he's ever been self-indulgent before. Like any great artist, he's always done what he loves and he's always followed his passion, but, in the end, it was always for the good of the audience. But you just can't say that this time.
The fact is, you never grow to care all that much about any of these characters. In all of his other films you have characters who you strongly care about - no matter if they be hit men, like John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction", or killing machines of pure vengeance, like Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill". But not in this film. Of course, you don't want the innocent women to die, but you're hardly attached to them. "But that's what the films he's paying homage to were like", I hear someone say. Ok, but then why even make this if it's nothing more than imitation? Tarantino's brilliance has always been to take his love of lowbrow cinema and turn it into something special and unique, like he did with the old '70s Hong Kong films that he was largely paying homage to in "Kill Bill Vol 1".
All I found myself wanting while watching this film was for Kurt Russell's character, the psycho named "Stuntman Mike", to die. Perhaps I just didn't like such a one-dimensional character using my name. I don't know. Maybe that's it. I know I sound like those people who simply didn't get "Kill Bill", but, again, this is coming from the biggest of Tarantino fans. Up till now I've loved everything he's done.
And it's not like I approached the film with any sort of negative perceptions. In fact, I was expecting to be blown away as usual. I was pumped up. I mean, I never read one negative review about the film. On the contrary, most of the critics loved it, or at least liked it, and the one review I explicitly remember reading was the rave review by the normally-dependable Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. But, for once, I just don't get what Peter was so excited about.
Sure there are people who would say some of the same things I'm saying above about earlier Tarantino films, but they're simply nuts:
- Reservoir Dogs: Brilliant!
- Pulp Fiction: One of the greatest films of all time!
- Jackie Brown: Brilliant!
- and both Kill Bill movies, as you've heard me say many times before, absolutely awesome!
Perhaps I should see this "Death Proof" film again. Maybe I just didn't get it. I mean, I remember being slightly let-down by "Jackie Brown" the first time I saw it, since it was so different from the fast-paced, quick-edited masterpiece known as "Pulp Fiction", but after seeing it for the second time I realized what a brilliant piece of filmmaking it truly was. However, I just don't see a second viewing radically altering my view on this one. But I'm sure I'll have to give it a try someday.
I'll say it again, all of his other films have had heart, soul, brilliantly-written characters, and fantastic concepts and scenes that just blew your mind. This, on the other hand, has lots of car chases and a psycho villain with no known motivation or background story. Yes, that's right, one dimensional like your typical D-movie villain. But I didn't want to watch a D-grade movie, I wanted to watch a Tarantino flick.
Again, it's not that I hated it, it's just that it was so much less of a mind-blowing experience than I had been expecting. In fact, it didn't blow my mind at all. Someone with the incredible talent of Tarantino just can't be allowed to make such mediocre shit. I demand more! Come on Quentin, you sure as hell better make that "Inglorious Bastards" that you're filming right now into something special. You owe us big time! You're Tarantino, after all.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Saturday, September 22nd, 2007