I don’t even know where to start. When describing movies I often say, “It’s not for everybody.” Well when it comes to Grindhouse truer words cannot be spoken. To their credit, directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino don’t hide the ball. They let you know upfront what you’re in for: sex, violence and gore. Thank you sir, may I have another? The title refers to the popular cinema houses of the 70s that specialized in double features of the “B-movie” variety. The theaters also doubled as “go-go” bars, putting the “grind” in “grindhouse.”
Tarantino has a way of paying homage to the vestiges of his youth, whether it be pin-up girls (i.e. Pam Grier, that’s why he cast her in Jackie Brown), spaghetti westerns (think Kill Bill), or these dirty little grindhouses I just described. I applaud Rodriguez and Tarantino for their creativity. They previously teamed up for Sin City, and I think they work pretty well together – although each director is responsible for his own work in Grindhouse. The movie is a double feature, and Rodriguez is first up with “Planet Terror,” followed by Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” Since both movies are inspired by the B-movie genre, each director gets to eschew any plot constraints and focus on the salacious and tawdry. Bullets and blood abound, particularly in “Planet Terror.” The gore is gratuitous, the campy dialogue at an all-time high. What makes it great is that it’s supposed to be that way. Either you get it or you don’t. Complete with phony previews and “missing reels” that leave HUGE plot holes, Grindhouse aims to make your movie-going experience an authentic one. “Planet Terror” features Rose McGowan (Jawbreakers) as a one-legged go-go dancer. She and her boyfriend, played by Freddy Rodriguez (Dead Presidents) must dispatch their town of brain-eating zombies. That’s pretty much all I can say about the “plot.” Everything else that transpires can best be described as sensory assault.
Now it’s Tarantino’s turn. “Death Proof” is less gory than “Planet Terror,” and actually has a little character development, if you could call it that. It features Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Sydney Poitier (it’s his daughter, not him!), and Kurt Russell (Dark Blue), most notably. Russell is “Stuntman Mike,” a psychopath who preys on women with his car. We follow two groups of girlfriends as they are stalked and terrorized. What I liked most about “Death Proof” was its voyeuristic quality. You really feel like you’re watching a group of friends with a hidden camera. It’s very dialogue-driven and realistic, which is both good and bad. It’s good that it feels genuine, but it’s bad when the dialogue turns tedious and uninteresting. You have to care about these girls’ conversations and interaction, and I could see some people shifting in their theater seats, waiting for the “action.”
I could go on and on about Grindhouse, but I’ll stop there. This is not the kind of movie that comes along every day. It is remarkably unique – never taking itself seriously in its storytelling, but maintaining the artistic integrity of its premise. Sometimes when a movie is a parody or spoof, you’ll find that the writer/director takes the lazy road because the movie is “supposed” to be bad or silly. That wasn’t the case with Rodriguez and Tarantino. They’ve managed to create a hilarious, edgy, over-the-top spectacle that will stun anyone with the guts to see it. I thought it was great.