The Grindhouse

The term "grindhouse" refers to the grimy old cinemas that played a constant stream of B-movies.  Those cinemas are long gone, but still in fresh in the memories of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.  Tarantino is legendary for his love of cult movies, so it was inevitable that he make something like The Grindhouse.  Like the some of the movies that played in the old theaters, The Grindhouse is a double feature, with Planet Terror by Rodriguez and Death Proof by Tarantino.  Both are made in the style of old exploitation movies, complete with cheesy plots and excessive violence.  To make things even more enjoyable, the directors added fake scratches and dirt to the film, making it look "old."  They even enlisted a few of their friends (including Rob Zombie and Eli Roth) to make fake trailers that play before both movies.  It is an homage to exploitation films, and while there is little redeeming value, the films are rip-roaring fun.

Rodriguez (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, Sin City) is up with Planet Terror, a fun old-fashioned zombie movie.  Something in the air is causing people to turn into walking, boil -infested, cannibalistic mutants.  Only a few people, like Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, Bobby, Lady in the Water) and go-go dancer Cherry (Rose McGowan, The Black Dahlia, Monkeybone) are able to band together to form a resistance.  Wray has a secret, and the local police will not let him hold a gun.  Cherry and Wray used to date, so the interaction between them is a bit icy.  This changes when she loses her leg, and eventually Wray constructs a machine gun that she can attach to her thigh.  Rodriguez (Robert) has the amazing ability to transcend genres - he can make any type of movie he wants.  Planet Terror is a bit scary, yet he tempers this with the necessary sense of campiness that a movie like this needs.

Tarantino's (Sin City, Kill Bill Vol. 2) movie is both an homage and vintage Tarantino.  It is an amazingly talk movie full of vintage Tarantino-speak for much of the film, then morphs into a breath-taking car chase featuring stuntwoman Zoe Bell (double of Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies, Lucy Lawless in Xena, and one of the subjects in the great documentary Double Dare) playing herself.  The scratches and dirt here are a bit more obvious - they are more likely to happen when the action heats up.  There are two groups of four women in the movie, and bridging the sections is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, Poseidon, Dreamer), who drives a menacing Dodge Charger.  As his name implies, Stuntman Mike is a stuntman, and his Charger is tricked up impressively, enough so to imply the name of this segment of The Grindhouse.  Mike is also a bit insane, and has a penchant for using his Charger as a deadly weapon.

The order of Planet Terror first and Death Proof second is a good choice.  The large amount of exposition serves as a much needed change of pace, a good lull before the furious car sequence that has Bell precariously positioned on the hood of a car.  Bell is a great stuntwoman, and this extended sequence was shot with real cars and no CGI.  The effect is palpable, and gives the movie a sense of realism and danger that is no longer present in most action movie car chases.  Both directors have some actors doing double duty by appearing in both segments.  Rodriguez apparently had so much fun doing Machete, his fake trailer starring Danny Trejo (Sherrybaby, The Devil's Rejects) that he is developing the trailer into an actual film.  It takes no skill to make a bad movie, but a lot of skill to make a good movie that seems to be a bad movie.  The Grindhouse, which, incidentally, was released internationally as two different films, falls squarely into the latter category.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
3 hours, 11 minutes, Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity, and drug use.

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