Tarantino’s Worst Movie?
Whenever people rank the handful of Quentin Tarantino movies, chances are Death Proof is at the bottom of the majority. Either I’m a contrarian asshole or have terrible taste, but I love this flick! If you asked me why, I couldn’t give you a straight answer, but it resonates with me for reasons unknown.
I didn’t see the movie as part of the Grindhouse experience when it was released in theaters, but I picked it up on DVD later that year. Since then, it has received regular play in my house, especially during the month of October.
Perhaps some of the affinity I hold for it is it feels like two movies in one. The first part taking place in the smelliest portion of Texas, and the second half in a Tennessee town right outside Nashville.
Due to the split-second flash of the Thunderbolt title at the start of the movie, theories abound about if one is real life and the other is a movie within the movie. That could be interesting, but I prefer not to overthink it and take it solely at face value.
The First And Better Part
If I find myself wanting to watch Death Proof, but don’t have time for the whole thing, watching the first 45 minutes or so is satisfying enough. Besides being set in the part of Texas where He Who Shall Not Be Named and His Easy Wife can be found, it feels complete enough to be a worthwhile B-movie I stumbled across at 02:00 in the morning.
As opposed to the Hollywood crew in the second part, the first set of girls have more of that girl next door quality to them. They feel like chicks we’ve fucked somewhere in the paths of our lives before and, with a little luck, will again one day. The focal female, Butterfly, feels like a girl I knew in high school. She doesn’t look like her but has a similar vibe. Call it “wish fulfillment” when we get to the lap-dance scene.
The connection between both sections of the movie is Kurt Russell playing one of the most underrated characters in all of cinema: Stuntman Mike. We learn a little of his backstory regarding how he got into the stuntman business and some shows he worked on, but similar to the Joker in The Dark Knight, this could all be lies.
Unlike typical movie monsters, Stuntman Mike is a laid back, charming individual. There’s not even a hint of menace to him until the first broad is in his car and it’s too late. He comes off as the kind of man trailer park kids hope their whore mothers will eventually come home with.
In The Wake Of #MeToo
If there’s one drawback to the first half, it’s Rose McGowan being terrible as always as the blonde chick whose boyfriend left her stranded at the bar. In the year past, I never had a problem with her, but now I can’t see her in a movie without being reminded of the Prune Face she has become.
Seeing as this is a Weinstein production, it is worth noting she has a speech where she bitches out the black chick, Jungle Julie, about sucking some guy off for a billboard. Color me shocked, but she delivers the line, “Enjoy it CockSucker, you earned it” without a hint of irony.
Misogyny Can Be Kind Of Fun
As the night at the bar wanes on, Butterfly is depressed no one has brought up the challenge Jungle Julie issued on her show. At last call, Stuntman Mike brings it up and guilts her into giving him his due. From there, we get a few of the best minutes of cinemas ever produced:
Fun Fact: I once watched this scene with my father-in-law and a minister’s son.
I won’t spoil anything for the rest of this chapter, but the relationships forged this evening quickly evaporate.
The Second Part: A Big Wet Spot
It’s hard to top a nearly flawless first half, and Tarantino can’t seem to stay out of his own way by having an overly long diner scene. Yes, some will argue it’s trying to evoke memories of Reservoir Dogs or providing the setup to make the finale believable. To those, I say “fuck off.”
I’ve never seen the theatrical cut of the movie, but I heard the diner scene is shortened, but I’m not sure if it provides the aforementioned lapdance scene. That’s not a concession I am willing to make, either.
Regardless of the laggy second half, it does a nice job of paralleling the first with a new set of women. Whereas the first set of girls felt more natural, therefore more appealing, we know these are all chicks working on a movie, which injects a level of phoniness to them. While only one is an actress, the others read Italian Vogue and drink sugar free Red Bull, meaning they earn the hard pass stamp from me.
Cory Booker’s Beard, A chick from the Fappening, Uma Thurman’s Stuntwoman, and headcanon Jules Winnfield’s daughter make up the set of girls who eventually bring down ol’ Stuntman Mike.
A Look Into The Future
Tarrantino must have a crystal ball, or maybe it’s part of the deal he made with Satan, but this flick portrays the reversal we’ve seen in cinema over the past decade. Stuntman Mike begins as a villain who everyone can admire because of how unapologetically evil he is. That’s washed away in the second half because he comes up against something he’s never encountered before: Gurl Power!
Through the power of their combined vaginas, the girls are able to hunt down Stuntman Mike and give him his proper comeuppance. They then strike a victorious pose as the frame freezes for a second, only for it to unfreeze and the killing blow be delivered to the character representing Old Hollywood.
Back in 2007, I didn’t mind this pre-wokeness because it didn’t feel incredibly forced. As much as the first part of the second half lags, it does set up that these women can take care of themselves; they’re not just a pack of Mary Sues roaming the countryside.
In the wake of The Great Vaginiaing that has taken cinema hostage, though, it’s hard not to notice the parallels. However, seeing Rose McGowan basically bitch against what she ended up being forever known for, in a movie produced by the same guy, and seeing two sets of trim for the whole movie helps make up for its shortfalls.
Do what I do every October, and get liquored up and watch it!