Quentin Tarantino is by far one of the greatest directors of his generation, beginning his career with the genre-busting Reservoir Dogs through to his latest effort of the Western/Southern slavery mash-up Django Unchained. Jumping from crime heist to kung-fu revenge flick, he has become acclaimed as a master of genre filmmaking. With Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction seen as modern classics, all eyes are on the director's body of work to match his brilliant earlier works. With his seventies grindhouse feature Death Proof, the director payed homage to the double feature exploitation flicks of his youth. Despite a disappointing box office take and mixed critical reception Death Proof is an epic whirlwind of a film, with great style, an epic soundtrack and a thrilling car chase finale.
The idea for the film came from Tarantino's fascination with the way in which drivers could make their cars death proof. He imagined a deranged driver stalking groups of women in a car crash film, and by mixing elements of exploitation and car chase movies with the conventions of a slasher film, Death Proof was born. But this was never intended as a one-shot deal. In true seventies grindhouse style, Tarantino collaborated with Robert Rodriguez to produce a double feature, with added fake trailers in between the two films. Tarantino's Death Proof would be shown alongside Rodriguez's own Planet Terror to form the full Grindhouse.
Death Proof may indeed lack the character development of Tarantino's other work, but this is not an oversight on his part. The characters are still fun and engage brilliantly through Tarantino's banterous dialogue. During both halves, each group of young women interact and party, before finally the film builds to the car crash finales. With a brief, but explosive first crash, the film then builds to the car chase to end all car chases. All the stunts and partying and banter are presented like a seventies cinema showreel. With its jump cuts, crackled sound and the grainy picture quality, Tarantino has really attempted to recreate the grindhouse aesthetic.
And, as usual, Tarantino himself has a cameo.
Sadly due to disappointing early box office figures, the decision was made to separate the two parts of the Grindhouse feature and Death Proof and Planet Terror were distributed separately without the added bonus of the specially made fake trailers from guest directors like Eli Roth and Edgar Wright (one such trailer eventually becoming Rodriguez's Machete, whilst another became the Rutger Hauer flick Hobo With a Shotgun).
Death Proof may not be at the top of Tarantino's body of work, but is not a film to be dismissed. Great dialogue, a thrilling build-up and awesome action make it a joy to watch. See Tarantino recreate the genre of the past with his awesome homage to exploitation.