Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez celebrates the low-budget, exploitation movies of the 1960’s and 70’s. Read on:
Grindhouse is the latest film by Quentin Tarantino, a celebration if not culmination of his lifetime love for B-, C- and Z-grade exploitation movies. Yet strangely enough, this is not his best work. A groundbreaking co-production with longtime creative partner Robert Rodriguez, the anthology aims to recall the low budget double-feature format pioneered in the 1960s and ’70s, but update its formulas with modern-day money and technical know-how. While this appears to have liberated Rodriguez, a director who has toiled for more than a decade in otherwise overdressed genre pictures, it curiously has exposed Tarantino’s filmmaking Achilles’ heel — namely, his inability to distinguish when that celebration of movie magic interferes with a well-told tale.
At the same time, there are so many amazing and innovative ideas in Tarantino’s pastiche-cum-homage that it’s hard to hold his section in too low regard, particularly given its wealth of breathtaking action sequences and one particularly powerful performance. So even if Rodriguez’ effort surpasses his headliner’s by an outright star or so (consider it a four-and-a-halfer to Tarantino’s three-and-a-half), this tribute to cinema’s exploitative dregs is some of the most dynamic and engaging filmmaking produced in years.
At three-plus hours, Grindhouse is comprised of two short films, Planet Terror and Death Proof, which are connected by a series of fake trailers shot by industry colleagues like Eli Roth (Hostel) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). Rodriguez’ Planet Terror is presented first, presumably because he is the lesser-known of the two directors, but his proves to be the better movie and more faithful interpretation of the grindhouse “ethos.” In the film, Freddy Rodriguez (Lady in the Water) plays Wray, a traveler with a shady past who becomes the unlikely savior for a band of survivors when the rest of humanity succumbs to a mysterious disease that turns them into zombies.
Predictably, there are several other characters acting out their own little melodramas against the backdrop of this larger event: William (Josh Brolin) and Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) are locked into a cycle of jealousy and revenge as their marriage slowly falls apart; Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) tries to rebuild her life when she leaves her job as a go-go dancer, only to find her dreams of being a stand-up comic shattered when she loses her leg in a zombie attack; Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn) must uncover the secrets of Wray’s background while uncovering the recipe for his brother J.T.’s (Jeff Fahey) tasty barbeque; and scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) tries to find a cure for the zombie “infection,” while attempting to outrun a general hell-bent on controlling the disease for his own fiendish purposes.
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