The second half of my Grindhouse films review, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Cars, a creepy antagonist played by a Hollywood legend and a cool soundtrack? This is where I should make a car pun, but I won’t.
It opens with scratches on the film, giving it a 70’s look and feel. The original title of the film flashes across the screen as it is cut to Death Proof. Jungle Julia, a main character, walks through her apartment in skimpy clothing and sits on her sofa, mimicking the picture above her sofa.The hood cam of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is seen throughout the credits as Jungle Julia looks outside her window. One of her friends has arrived and in desperate need to use the bathroom. It just cuts to Jungle Julia sitting across the backseat of a car driven by Shanna with Arlene in the passenger side talking about who would be responsible for picking up drugs. They’re in Austin, Texas. They’re just throwing blame towards each other by dissecting everything the other person has said.
Jungle Julia is a radio show host who has billboards on display as they drive through town and they whoop at the signs. They are making plans to have Mexican food and margaritas at a local bar called Guero’s. The conversation turns to Arlene as they ask her about her date. They make further plans to go to a lake house owned by Shanna’s dad. They drive around the corner as Stuntman Mike’s car follows them. Arlene is outside Guero’s having a smoke as Stuntman Mike pulls up in his car and just watches her from inside his car. He then speeds off.
The film skips a little as a friend of Jungle Julia, Marcie, goes over to the table where Arlene and Shanna are seated. She mentions Butterfly and Jungle Julia explains to Arlene that if anyone recites a certain poem to her that she has to give them a lapdance. The girls leave Guero’s and go to a diner called Texas Chili Parlor. The Spanish babysitter twins are briefly seen from Planet Terror as they go into the chili place. The girls are sitting with three guys. Eli Roth’s Dov with Shanna, Omar Doom’s Nate with Arlene and Michael Baccall’s Omar with Jungle Julia.
Jungle Julia pops out to make a phone call and send a message to a guy she likes, accompanied by soft piano music. Warren comes over with shots for everyone, played by Tarantino himself. Arlene goes out into the rain for another smoke as Omar and Dov go to the bar to get drinks. Warren flips a light in the parking lot as Arlene sees the car from earlier. Nate pops out to talk to Arlene about making out in his car.
Inside, Stuntman Mike is sitting at the bar, enjoying nachos. Down at the end of the bar, Dov and Omar are talking about getting more drinks into the women to the point that they’ll get invited to the lake house. They look at Mike and make fun of him. He looks over his right shoulder to observe the girls. A woman at the counter played by Rose McGowan, Pam, is asking for a ride home as Mike slides his car keys across the bar and they talk. Pam is talking about how much she hates Jungle Julia to Mike. The friend Julia texted earlier turns up, Lanna Frank, and the women go outside to smoke on the porch.
On the bench next to them is Mike, who makes his way into the gang by talking to Jungle Julia. He goes back in to talk to Pam and Warren and they talk about his resume about being a stuntman in Hollywood. The girls are back inside and they’re ready to leave. Stuntman Mike appears and recites the poem to Arlene. Arlene feels uneasy around Mike and he tries to make her feel comfortable. He convinces her to give him a lapdance. She dances like Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn minus snakes. The film skips to Mike in the parking lot ready to give Pam a ride home while Julia and Arlene make fun of her. Mike tells her the car is death proof and explains why. She gets in the car as he drives off with her.
They get to the end of the road and Mike’s attitude changes. He ignores her directions to get home and instead he drives erratically. She’s riding without a seatbelt, which causes her body to be thrown around. He brakes abruptly and it kills her. He goes after Jungle Julia who is in a car her friends, Lanna Frank, Shanna and Arlene. They are driving towards the lake house and listening to music in their car. They’re happy and enjoying the music as Mike drives past them and does a 180 spin in the car ahead of them. He drives towards them and turns on his lights. The he crashes right into them. None of the women survive because the crash is replayed in different angles, showing how they all died.
In the hospital, Dakota Block is called by Earl from Planet Terror. He’s with his son, they ask about Mike’s prognosis. She tells them and storms off. Earl and his son speak about the car crash and their take on the whole case. I think Death Proof is supposed to be the first one while Planet Terror would follow. 14 months later in Lebanon, Tennessee Mike is driving around in his rebuilt car. Another car pulls up with Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lee and Tracie Thoms’ Kim. Abernathy is asleep in the back while Kim and Lee are talking while Mike watches on. Kim tells Lee that she has to pick up her friend Zoe from the airport, stuntwoman Zoe Bell plays herself in this. She’s a brilliant yet reckless character that comes off as fun.
Lee is singing in the car as Kim leaves to get a coffee. Mike does something creepy to Abernathy’s feet as she’s still sleeping in the back of the car. Abernathy is startled as she wakes up and Mike leaves. The women pick up Zoe while Mike is taking pictures from afar. The women sit in the car driven by Kim. They talk about the men in their lives and catch up with each other. They’re all eating at a diner while the camera tracking the characters is a lot like the same style used in Reservoir Dogs. Lee asks Zoe about Australia, but Zoe corrects her and says that she’s from New Zealand. She gives a nice little factoid about the difference.
Zoe finds someone that has the car she’s always wanted, a 1970 Dodge Challenger in white. They meet the seller and leave Lee with him, she reluctantly accepts as Abernathy, Zoe and Kim take it for a test drive. Kim is furious with Zoe because she wants to play “Ship’s Mast.” This means that while they’re taking the Challenger for a test drive, Zoe is tied up on the front of the car while Kim is driving. Mike turns up while Kim is driving with Zoe in the front and Abernathy is sitting in the back. Zoe jumps onto the hood of the car holding a belt in each hand while Kim is driving, Abernathy sits in front as they cheer Zoe on.
Mike is watching from afar through his binoculars as he smiles. He drives his car after them. He antagonizes them by bumping his car into them. The camera work by Tarantino in these last few moments is a delight to watch. Zoe is being knocked about as she’s trying to hold on, but Mike keeps ramming his car alongside them. He runs them off the road as Zoe flies off into a ditch. Mike stops his car to tell the women that he’s having fun, but is shot in the arm and drives off. Kim and Abernathy are in the car thinking that Zoe is dead, but she’s okay. She springs up on her feet and waves at Kim and Abernathy in the car. Zoe asks about Mike and she wants revenge. It’s time to antagonize Mike. Zoe finds a pipe on the side of the road to use as Kim speeds off. They hunt him down to deal with him. The car chase here is brilliantly shot as there’s a point where you think he’s gotten away from the women and a wide shot shows the opposite. Mike goes from evil guy to frightened and scared as the women are looking for payback. They really let him have it as he pleads for mercy. The women triumph as the movie comes to a close.
Thank you for reading, you can find me on Twitter with the handle @immiebroods if you want to discuss the movie and what you thought of it.