Last weekend I attended a preview screening of the new Tarantino movie, Death Proof. As everyone knows, it is a newly expanded version of his half of the failed Grindhouse experiment. I have to say, having seen this, it is no longer a mystery to me why the experiment failed.
Firstly let me put all my cards on the table and say I am not a fan of Tarantino the man or the movie maker. I find him unbearably smug and irritating when interviewed and his films have grown ever more painfully self indulgent. I really liked Kill Bill Vol 1 but the second installment bored me to tears. And the fact that what started out as an 80 minute quick and dirty little revenge movie bloated in to a two volume FOUR HOUR movie highlights the biggest problem with Death Proof: It's too long and too dull.
Grindhouse in its original double bill format was supposed to run two hours max. Due to the madness of the directors behind the project it finally clocked in at over three hours. And now, with 25 minutes of footage restored, the stand alone Death Proof runs at close to two hours. Which normally would be fine. But when you only have enough plot and character development to sustain maybe a quarter of that running time, then there's a problem. Whole sequences of the film are made up of uninteresting characters having highly unbelievable and really very boring conversations. And one more shot of bare feet and I was about ready to kick the screen in. Yes, Quentin, you have a foot fetish, I get it. But come on.
However there are two more problems far more fatal than the above. Firstly, the film lacks the courage of its convictions. The first half of the movie is all bad edits, crackly film stock and so on, exactly the retro Grindhouse look aimed for. The second half of the movie doesn't have that at all, it's a "proper" film in terms of editing etc. But even more annoying to me was that having worked so hard to give the film a 70s look and feel in everything from the shooting style to the locations, props and costumes, the film was set in the present, with cell phones and iPods making unnecessary and glaringly anachronistic appearances. And the second half of the film focuses on four people who work in the movie business and their dialogue is so clogged with pop culture references that it eventually suffocates on its own post modern clever-cleverness. If you must see it, pay for another movie and sneak in to watch the last 20 minutes for the only bravura stunt sequence in the film. Other than that, file it under "failure". Shame.