Never intended as a standalone feature film, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof was originally meant to play alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, as one half of a retro cinema-homaging double-bill. Deemed a failure in the US, this ‘experiment’ (named Grindhouse after the cinemas which specialised in these features) was torn in two, so that each could be released separately in extended versions. While both suffered from this development, Tarantino’s chicksploitation killer-thriller arguably comes off worse, as the padded-out, two-hour theatrical version is overly talky and dialogue heavy even by QT’s standards.
The tale of a mysterious stuntcar driver (Kurt Russell) who stalks and kills small groups of girls, Death Proof takes forever to get going. Worse still, when it eventually does get going (IE, when Russell finally turns up), it then re-starts again. To explain, the first half plays as a series of long conversational scenes which all builds towards some carnage, only for the second half to then start over with a different group of girls.
While Russell has presence to burn as always, he appears far less than you might imagine, with the girls getting the vast majority of screentime. None of them are interesting or memorable, though, as they’re virtually all the same character, spouting the same unrealistically hip dialogue. True, you could say the same about most characters in any of Quentin’s films, but here it’s particularly obvious. Overall, it feels less showy and try-hard than most of Tarantino’s work, but this is one for fans only.