Palace IFC has been organizing midnight screenings of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof over the last few weeks. Originally the second half of the Grindhouse project with Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino re-edited his part of the double bill and debuted this cut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as Death Proof. The version currently showing in Hong Kong is Tarantino’s newer cut – in essence Tarantino expands the original version from Grindhouse with more back story. New scenes not in the Grindhouse cut include a lap dance, a sexual negotiation on a rainy porch and a more detailed intro to the characters the latter part of the film focuses on. This extended new cut clocks in at 114 minutes, a substantial 27 minutes more than the “compact” version in Grindhouse.
Death Proof is the kind of film that my parents would not understand. There isn’t much of a plot like most 1970s drive-in exploitation films. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) drives a reinforced stunt car around the backwaters of the US and aimlessly hounds and runs over cute chicks. This is not the type of film that cares about the psychology of a maniac; the film much rather focuses on the ridiculous thrills of reckless driving and cute chicks. Old folks are also likely to be thrown off by the intentional jump cuts and audio drop outs that mimic the atrocious drive-in experience.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting very much with Death Proof, mainly B-grade guilty pleasures and a decent soundtrack. But the film turned out to be surprising well written and fun. Tarantino’s trademark dialogue remains sharp and fascinating and apart from the references to cult favourites, the fast cars and hot chicks also prove to be crowd pleasers. While the film is dominated by a group of relatively unknown actresses and there are certainly some T&A moments, Tarantino manages to steer the film from the exploitative roots of the films he pays homage to. Death Proof can be split into two halves, and I definitely prefer the second half : the actresses seem looser, have more chemistry and the dialogue was funnier. Kurt Russell is excellent as stuntman Mike and Zoe Ball, a real life stunt double actually delivers a very entertaining turn in the second part of the film. Also of note is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is also currently getting quite a bit of exposure as Bruce Willis’s daughter in the new Die Hard film. Very highly recommended.