Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) is a popular Texas disc jockey who today is out driving with two of her friends, Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd). Every time they pass a billboard advertising Julia's radio show they cheer, because they're out for a good time tonight as they head for a local bar. However, what they don't notice is a car following them, a car with a skull and crossbones on its hood, a car belonging to Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), who just happens to be on the lookout for fresh victims. He's a psychopath, you see, and road accidents are his favourite thing...
The story behind Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, and indeed Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, was well known by the time they were released separately. Together, and each cut down to a neat ninety minutes, they had constituted the cinematic conceit that was Grindhouse, a three hour wallow in the American exploitation movies of the seventies, but when it turned out there was only a small audience for such a thing even in the U.S.A., the production company were forced to split them up and ditch all the accoutrements that came with them, most significantly the spoof trailers by other filmmakers.
So this was Death Proof, expanded to a near two hour length and publicised by its writer and director in an "I meant to do that" kind of way, saying that now we could see the film as he had intended it originally: yes, it was Director's Cut time again. Unfortunately, while the films he and Rodriguez were paying homage to were in the main clocking in at an hour and a half, if that, this fresh version lumbered along at nearly half an hour longer past where it really needed to be, meaning there was much more room, not for action, but for incessant chatter.
Tarantino loved to hear his characters talk, but what he ended up with here was the My Dinner with Andre of car chase movies. It was almost forty five minutes in before it felt as if anything was actually happening in this film, as most of the drama was caught up with the young protagonists blethering about lap dances, alcohol and dropping pop culture references. When Russell appeared about a quarter of the way in, things perked up a bit as they usually do, but then he was almost immediately dragged down into the near-constant conversation.
And it wasn't dialogue that pushed the plot forward, it was tension-sapping yakking that served to fill up space. There were two action setpieces, one at the end of the first half where Mike indulges himself, and another, more generous one for the finale where he gets his comeuppance, lending the proceedings a feel of being both an initial instalment and its own sequel. The ageing of the film in the first half and the pristine look to the second only enhanced that appearance. Yet Death Proof was something its predecessors were not, and that's self-conscious to a fault, making it look as if Tarantino had finally run out of tricks. He couldn't even offer a decent ending to his misguided tribute.
American writer/director and one of the most iconic filmmakers of the 1990s. The former video store clerk made his debut in 1992 with the dazzling crime thriller Reservoir Dogs, which mixed razor sharp dialogue, powerhouse acting and brutal violence in controversial style. Sprawling black comedy thriller Pulp Fiction was one of 1994's biggest hits and resurrected John Travolta's career, much as 1997's Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown did for Pam Grier.