Lowdown: The struggle between men and women, Tarantino style.
Let it be known: I am not a big fan of Tarantino. Sure, there was a period in which I thought very highly of Pulp Fiction, and I am pretty sure I will still enjoy that film as well as some of his other films (albeit to a much lesser extent); thing is, my appreciation for Tarantino as a movie maker has severely waned over the years. Whereas once he was a bold original, now he seems to me like someone who knows a few tricks (emphasis on few) and who is, overall, lacking in originality and trying hard to compensate through lesser means.
Which is my way of saying that I wanted to see Death Proof the way I wanted to see all of Tarantino's stuff after Pulp Fiction, but I wasn't holding my hopes up high. And indeed, Death Proof does not provide much of a reason to hold one's hopes up high.
The story, if you can refer to Death Proof as a movie containing a story in the first place, follows a bunch of girls as they go out to have some drinks one night. There they chat for what seems to be an eternity but is probably something like three quarters of an hour long pileup of the regular Tarantino dialog: much ado about nothing, but peppered with stuff that should make it sound cool. As I have said before, originality is lacking from Tarantino's arsenal, and said dialog is as invigorating as reading an old newspaper.
Anyway, as the girls make their way out they are stalked by Kurt Russell, a stuntman with a death proof car: A Ford Mustang, if I'm not mistaken, that has been enforced enough to allow him to go through any traffic accident without severe damage. Using his car Russell intentionally collides with the chicks we've met before, killing them all (I know some would say I am telling you much of the movie's plot, but my point is that this killing is not on the movie's critical path; the movie's experience is in the dialog, not the plot). In typical Tarantino fashion he goes over the killings quite thoroughly, showing us bits of limbs getting cut off and faces getting treated by the oncoming death proof car; it's all made in such a way that glorifies it and is meant to work on our emotions the way porn would, the primary reason why I no longer hold Tarantino to be an inspirational director but rather one who has gone to the dogs.
Next thing we know a year has past and there's a new bunch of girls out there. Prolonged dialog sessions endue, and eventually they get the Kurt Russell treatment too; only that they will not succumb like chicks to the slaughter, providing us with some exciting car chase scenes.
I think the main positive thing I have to say about Tarantino's Death Proof is that he doesn't do his usual time shifting tricks; Death Proof's plot is linear, thank you very much. If you are looking for a message under the thick layer of boring dialog, it is to do with the struggle between men and women. All the men in Death Proof, including Russell, are out there to satisfy their basic needs through women, and they will stoop as low as required to get what they want; the women, on the other hand, are basically trying to survive in this hostile environment.
Best scene: The car chase scenes at the end. It's very exciting, but once again it works on raw emotions and makes you feel as if you're watching porn. How else would you explain having cars bashing into one another with one of them sporting a girl in a crucified like position over one of the car's hoods as she's tied by belts?
Picture quality: In a bid to make Death Proof look like an old matinee film of yonder, the film was made to look old, with pops and reel replacement and color fadeouts and much more. If you ask me, it just feels stupid and adds nothing to the experience.
Sound quality: As uninspiring as it can be, I guess. You do get the usual Tarantino mix of old style music, though.
Overall: A rather pathetic 2.5 out of 5 stars effort. Without the chases at the end this would have been a mighty boring film.