Death Proof: Review
By Christopher Owens
Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof is probably the most badass movie I have ever seen. How could it not be, though, with such brazen additions as Kurt Russell playing the foot-fetishizing maniac Stuntman Mike, a vintage muscle car death-race, and various colors and sizes of bodacious babes (three of which ended up being just as “badass” as they were “bodacious”)?
Let’s get this part out of the way. Most of the characters in this adrenaline-pumped flick possess the depth of a kid’s pool, but that’s the thing; these characters don’t need fleshed-out back stories. They just need to kill, be killed, drive, and scream. That’s simply the kind of movie Death Proof is, for better and for worse. For example, the many women introduced over the course of the film are great distractions. They’re nice to look at, but not much else. The only other point I can derive from Tarantino’s decision to use women in these roles as opposed to men is so the audience is more surprised when faced with the age old ending of good conquering evil. Even if the decision was some kind of attempt at reversing slasher/action film cliches, it comes off to me as unnecessarily contrived.
It was brilliant of Tarantino to cut the movie in half the way he does, allowing the first to function as a Kill Bill-style origin story for one of the director’s greatest characters, Stuntman Mike. The director lets us know he has a big scar, a spooky car, a foot fetish, and a penchant for killing ethnically diverse groups of women, but, like with every other character in the film, doesn’t give much else away. By the end of the second half, the only new thing I had learned about Mike since the beginning was that I liked his character even more than I’d thought I would. Russell would have stolen the show here even without being the only recurring character through the film’s two halves. I can’t say I’ve ever cared much for Kurt Russell outside of Hateful Eight and The Thing, but after his spot-on performance here, I will certainly check for him from now on.
The icing on the top of the cake that is this film would have to be the excessively (but astoundingly) gory special effects. The Walking Dead-special-effects-creator Greg Nicotero’s handprints are all over the movie’s bloodiest moments, and I cannot praise his handiwork enough. The first collision scene is one of the most grotesquely over-the-top parts of any movie I have ever witnessed, and this dry story would simply not hold water without the eye-candy professionals Tarantino enlisted as crew members.
For me, this movie definitely took two viewings to thoroughly sink in. I thought it was lacking a bit on my first watch, but, now I’m wondering if I was just looking too hard for the narrative complexity of QT’s other works in this relatively simple story. It doesn’t have the character development of Jackie Brown, the narrative complexity of Pulp Fiction, the historical backdrop of Inglorious Basterds, or the distorted timeline of Reservoir Dogs, but once I was able to appreciate this film for what it was instead of what it was not, I learned to love it.