Quentin Tarantino is probably the most annoying of all fan boys, but he knows what he’s doing. A self-professed film geek with a passion for cinema’s most bizarre, Tarantino is unabashed in his desire to bring what he loves to the modern audience. “Death Proof” remains contemporarily adroit while still effusing its love for its origins, and it ends up as quite an ode to the excesses of early 1970s shock cinema.
“Proof” is also a workout in sharp absurdity, an homage to testing the standards of taste in theaters. You know how people complain about poor editing, noticeable reel changes, missing portions of a film and poor focus when seeing a movie at a third-run theater? Well, that’s the point here. “Proof” validates that almost anything can be endearing – when put into new contexts. When a much-discussed lap dance scene cheekily ends up as a “missing reel,” the effect is as refreshing as it is frustrating.
“Death Proof” is a yarn about a serial killer who goes by the name of Stuntman Mike (a badass Kurt Russell, “Miracle”), a movie stuntman with a need to satiate his appetite for destruction. The product of a pre-CGI time, Mike takes pride in wrecking his car and coming out alright. But what excites him the most is wrecking his car with a pretty young lady unbelted in the passenger seat. Mike’s a serial killer with an engine rather than a gun.
Eight prototypically attractive women serve, not surprisingly, as Mike’s targets. Rosario Dawson (“Clerks 2”), Vanessa Ferlito (“The Descent”) and Tracie Thomas (“Rent”) are movie stuntwoman and production assistants with a day off and initially prance around in standard exploitative fashion before eventually shocking audiences with their wit and humanity. They’re a legitimately funny group of women, courtesy of Tarantino’s signature rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, and, being stuntwomen, ballsy, too.
When Zoe Bell (Uma’s “Kill Bill” stunt double) gets strapped to the hood of her car as she faces off with Stuntman Mike, something pure happens that seldom can be said of action in movies today: the film becomes exhilarating. It’s nice to see someone taking clenched fists to that CGI- engineered energy.
Boasting an outstanding vintage soundtrack by Joe Tex and Jack Nitzsche, Tarantino proves yet again that he is on the short list of filmmakers who can put together a playlist without looking for arbitrary implications.
Films of this juicy nature are now part of a shamelessly bygone era. And in the capably pretentious hands of director Quentin Tarantino, we are introduced to a bizarre bit of contemporary art that has earned (if not really deserved) its appreciation. “Death Proof” transcends silly fits of nostalgia to become a course in appreciation. It all just works to create a sensation of seeing something a little grittier and true to form.