Review: Grindhouse (2007)

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A 1970′s exploitation movie that really isn’t a 1970′s exploitation movie at all.

Written By: Jeff Rendell, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright & Rob Zombie
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright & Rob Zombie

There was an idea behind Grindhouse that was lost somewhere in the transition to the screen. Grindhouse was supposed to be a raw 1970′s exploitation style film, the type that aren’t made anymore. That’s what the movie strove to be, but that’s not what the audience received. Instead we were given a CGI laden Planet Terror and a far too clean Death Proof. I like both sections for different reasons, but I wouldn’t chalk up either to more than fun. That in itself would normally be good enough to get a recommendation from me. Grindhouse didn’t want to be just fun though, it set out with a goal, a way it wanted to be seen, and it failed on that account. Both sections failed for different reasons, but they still failed.

Planet Terror was the more exhilarating of the two sections. It was fun from start to finish, fast and very much over the top. The problem with Planet Terror resides in its usage of CGI and how far it veers from its goal of a 1970′s style cheapie flick. Amidst all the fun you realize that Robert Rodriguez is trying so very hard to be exploitative but yet appeal to modern sensibilities at the same time. No scene better defines that than the love scene between El Wray and Cherry Darling. Cherry doesn’t get naked, the sex is very, very tame, and that’s not what dirty “shouldn’t be seen” 1970′s exploitative movies were all about. If Planet Terror hadn’t of been made with the intentions of being very 1970′s in style it would have been a good film on its own merit, but it fails under the weight of its own aspirations.

Death Proof works better than Planet Terror, at least for the first hour. It may not be as fun, but it is sparse and it is real. Death Proof is evocative of the films it is trying to emulate, but it’s also original at the same time. The film has a purpose, it is cheesy, fun, written smartly, it looks weathered and worn, and it is a 1970′s exploitation film. Then the last forty or so minutes happen and the movie becomes far too clean. The scratches on the screen disappear, light is everywhere, the action is presented as clear as can be so we know that we are watching some intense action. Like Planet Terror, Death Proof veered from what it intended to be in order to accommodate a more modern audience and that caused too jarring of a tonal shift and left Death Proof feeling very flat.

The various fake trailers, Machete, Werewolf Women of the S.S., Thanksgiving, and Don’t all added a great homage factor to Grindhouse, as did the various rating videos and the cues to let you know whether the feature was playing or another prevue. Unfortunately the rest of Grindhouse couldn’t stay in line with those homages, and sacrificed what it set out to be in order to do what it thought it needed to in order to appease an audience in 2007. I can’t recommend Grindhouse because it falls apart within its own premise, but for at least an hour and a half of its three and a half hour running time it is inspired film making that is worth a look.

Rating:

**1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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