Stuntman Mike, played in a brilliantly understated manner by a rugged Kurt Russell, gets his kicks from engineering spectacular car smashes from which he walks away in reasonable shape due to his Death Proof stunt car, but his victims (always women) are well and truly splattered all over the highway and beyond. But has he bitten off more than he can chew when he unwittingly takes on a girl petrol head and her insane stunt girl side kick (Zoë Bell) ?
I think Quentin Tarantino is one of the best writer/directors of the modern era with a great ear for everyday dialogue in bizarre settings. The scenes between John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson where they muse on matters from the merits of Chicken Burgers, to the Meaning of Life whilst on the way to “whack” uppity debtors, make Pulp Fiction one of the best films of the last twenty five years.
In addition the action sequences plus the use of choreography and music make for pulsating new takes on human conflict whilst his use of unusual and imaginative photographic techniques always make a Tarentino film feel fresh and exciting even if the plot lines ( as in Kill Bill) are a bit too simplistic. It never matters because as a director he always delivers a film that is fun and keeps you engaged.
And that is my main disappointment with Death Proof. The second of the two separate stories involving Stuntman Mike and his crazy car contained a section of two scenes where the dialogue, although reasonably entertaining was actually quite pointless and I found myself thinking; “For Gawd’s sake cut to the chase!” Literally in this case.
But the chase was well worth it, and I would class the denouement of this picture as one of the best action car chases I have ever seen. Zoë Bell must have a screw loose, as she did all the mad stunt scenes such as hanging on to the bonnet of the car at insane speeds, all herself and her CV of stunts on IMDB is quite something to behold.
French actor Julie Delpy has this to say;I hate horror films in which women he treats like shit," says the star of Before Sunset. "That whole Tarantino thing about beating up women and killing them and chopping them up. Just because he has the mind of a 12-year-old….”
The whole point is that Mike is a useless inadequate who hates women, and is riven with self loathing. Hence there is a scene where he receives a lap dance as part of a dare on behalf of the girl characters, but there is no doubt in the mind of the viewer who is in control and who is exploited.
I believe that Quentin Tarantino is actually sending up the negative and exploitative portrayals of women in Cinema, as Stuntman Mike is exposed as a cowardly loser when presented with strong women as opponents who are fighting back and regaining control.
Tarentino is often accused of misogynism because of his portrayals of women, but they are usually strong, heroic and come out on top, so I would like the PC brigade who probably wouldn’t see his films anyway, to crawl away and take their pathetic self loathing with them.
This not his best film (it has a chequered history involving being spilt into two separate pictures) , but as usual Tarantino delivers a stylish and fun film with some brilliant action, even if the pace is a bit variable.