×

Death Proof

'Death Proof' proves its worth as a stand-alone feature in the expanded international version.

With:
With: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Michael Parks, Eli Roth, Omar Doom, Michael Bacall.

“Death Proof,” Quentin Tarantino’s half of the “Grindhouse” double bill with Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” that quickly came and went at U.S. theaters, proves its worth as a stand-alone feature in the expanded international version prepped to preem in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Although overall impact of Tarantino’s homage to chick-driven actioners and auto demolition derbies remains about the same, pic’s second half, in particular, benefits from the further detailing it’s now received. Although Stateside engagements for the elongated “Death Proof” would probably not be commercially justified beyond locales boasting plentiful numbers of the director’s fans, overseas figures could be OK.

Designed to replicate the look and cheap thrills of ’70s-era exploitationers, the ultimate “Death Proof” differs from its sources of inspiration in three prominent ways: At 114 minutes, having grown by 27 minutes, it’s considerably longer than such films ever were; its merits reside as much in its dialogue as in the kick-ass action, and it cost far, far more than a producer such as Roger Corman would ever have allowed.

It’s easy to say in retrospect, but the obvious mistaken production decision with the entire “Grindhouse” project was to not keep it on an extremely tight financial leash. Despite the big bucks Tarantino and Rodriguez had generated for the Weinsteins in the past, the producers should have held their star directors to adjusted-for-inflation ’70s-level budgets, forcing them to cope just the way their much-admired predecessors did.

The Austin-set first half of “Death Proof” has been elaborated in ways that fans will pick up on but significantly alter one’s perception of the characters in only one regard; photos attached to Kurt Russell’s car visor reveal that he’s been stalking the women and hasn’t ended up in the bar with them by chance.

Otherwise, the augmented gamey chatter among the first set of girls only serves to demonstrate that the actresses here are not on the same level as the ones to come in the second half. Beyond this, one now gets to witness the pretty cool lapdance Vanessa Ferlito gives to Kurt Russell, as well as a sexual negotiation on a rainy porch.

The big addition to the second, Tennessee-set portion of the film is obvious since it comes right at the beginning and is in black-and-white. Setting is the parking lot of a roadside convenience store, where the film crew workers — played by Tracie Thoms, Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead — make a pit stop while heading to pick up a visiting pal (Zoe Bell) at the airport. Russell pulls up and hassles them momentarily, but the mood is generally relaxed and genial, a warm-up for the overheated action to come.

One agreeable plus is the emergence of Winstead, who instead of a tag-along now seems like a full-fledged member of the sassy-mouthed team.

Once Bell arrives, pic seems the same as before, with one subjective difference; when “Death Proof” was part of the giant “Grindhouse” package, the big car chase kicked in around the two-and-a-half-hour point, meaning a certain fatigue factor had inevitably set in. If only for that reason, or perhaps because it’s so well executed that it bears repeat scrutiny very well, the chase — as well as the fisticuffs capper — proves even more exhilarating the second time around.

Same goes for Bell, whose entirely winning spunk and gung-ho attitude went somewhat under-appreciated in the wake of the media emphasis on the “Grindhouse” commercial flop.

(Read review of U.S. release “Grindhouse”)

Popular on Variety

Death Proof

Production: A Dimension Films release of a Troublemaker Studios production. Produced by Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Erica Steinberg, Quentin Tarantino. Executive producers, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Sandra Condito, Shannon McIntosh. Directed, written by Quentin Tarantino.

Crew: Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 21, 2007. Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Michael Parks, Eli Roth, Omar Doom, Michael Bacall.

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content