The Story: Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino team up for a double feature experience and an homage to ‘70s exploitation flicks. In Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” a military experiment is unleashed on an unsuspecting town, leaving the survivors, led by go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and her ex-boyfriend Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), on a desperate mission to escape. In Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” a stunt driver (Kurt Russell) specializes in terrorizing young women on the road until he accidentally messes with the wrong ones.
The Good: I enjoy a good zombie movie now and again, and was very entertained by Robert Rodriguez’s take on the genre George Romero built. Simply put, “Planet Terror” is a bloody good time. Full of the over-the-top gore you would expect from a zombie film and the great action sequences that have become a Rodriguez staple, the spectacle ranks among some of the best work Rodriguez has ever done. The cast does a remarkable job at keeping us engaged, as well as reminding us to not take everything so seriously. Rose McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez are great as the leads and Naveen Andrews, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn, Bruce Willis, and Tarantino give strong performances in their supporting roles. In “Death Proof,” Kurt Russell gives a refreshingly nasty turn as the villainous stunt driver, who manages to be charming at times yet always exuding a darker purpose. Besides Russell’s work, the other highlight is the car chases, which were exciting and fun to watch. Grindhouse also features four fake trailers, which were all very well done and witty, making them among the best parts of the movie as a whole. The look and feel of the film is to be commended as well. Rodriguez and Tarantino are perfectly able to capture the whole Grindhouse experience, complete with scratchy film, purposely bad editing, and even the lame theater menus that we’ve all come to loathe. I particularly enjoyed the missing reel gags, which were a very nice touch.
The Bad: Not much for “Planet Terror,” mainly the fact that it went a little too far over the top in spots. However, the same can't be said for “Death Proof.” I’ve never been much of a Tarantino fan and, outside of the extraordinary Pulp Fiction, feel the rest of his films never rise above the state of mediocrity. In short, “Death Proof” did little to change my opinion. I felt the film to be tedious and boring, which might have been influenced by the fact that it was the second film to be shown, yet I feel that my reaction would have been similar regardless. As is the case with all of Tarantino’s work, the movie is very dialogue heavy but, unfortunately this time around, most of it isn’t memorable or up to par with his past work. It doesn’t help the fact that outside of Russell, I didn’t find any of the other characters interesting or engaging in the least. If anything, they came across as annoying more than anything else, especially the overbearing Tracie Thoms, who fails miserably at trying to be a female Sam Jackson. There is also one sequence during the final car chase where I felt logic was blatantly thrown out the window in order to keep the chase going, which was even too outrageous by my standards.
The Verdict: In the end, Grindhouse turns out to be a mixed bag—one great flick packaged with a not-so-great one, along with some amusing trailers thrown in for laughs in-between. While Rodriguez succeeds in his entertaining half, Tarantino greatly disappoints with his, rendering what could have been a special film merely satisfactory. Still when taken into account overall, Grindhouse manages to be a fun and unique experience, despite the fact that it falters almost as much as it succeeds.