Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Michael Parks, Quentin Tarantino
These 8 Women Are About To Meet 1 Diabolical Man!
For Austin's hottest DJ, Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), dusk offers an opportunity to unwind with two of her closest friends, Shanna and Arlene (Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito). This three fox posse sets out into the night, turning heads from Guero's to the Texas Chili Parlor. Not all of the attention is innocent: covertly tracking their moves is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a scarred, weathered rebel who leers from behind the wheel of his muscle car. As the girls settle into their beers, Mike's weapon, a white-hot juggernaut, revs just feet away ...
$19.699 million on -unknown- screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 113 min.
Release Date: 9/18/07
• International Trailer
• International Poster Gallery
• Sneak Peeks
• “Stunts on Wheels: Legendary Drivers of Death Proof” Featurette
• “Introducing Zoe Bell” Featurette
• “Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike” Featurette
• “Finding Quentin’s Girls” Featurette
• “The Uncut Version of ‘Baby, It’s You’ Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead”
• “The Guys of Death Proof” Featurette
• “Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke” Featurette
• Double Dare Trailer
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Death Proof: Unrated Special Edition (2007)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 22, 2007)
If nothing else, one must give Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez credit for their goofy ambition. In 2007, they joined forces to create Grindhouse, a three-hour and 11-minute double feature meant to emulate cheap drive-in cinema of the Seventies. Though a minor fan base ate up this nutty premise, the mass audiences stayed away in droves. Grindhouse crashed and burned at the box office. Despite those two prominent directorial names over the marquee, the flick took in a craptacular $25 million.
Perhaps to avoid a similar fate on DVD – or maybe to milk the profits – the distributor decided to split Grindhouse for its home video run. For the first of two releases, we get Tarantino’s Death Proof, which ran as the second flick during the theatrical edition. We follow some sexy babes as they head out for a night on the town. When they end up at a bar, we meet grizzled Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). He chats up Pam (Rose McGowan), an acquaintance of these girls, and gets to know them as well.
Eventually Mike promises to give Pam a ride home – but it doesn’t work out that way. He tells her he made his stunt car “death proof”: the vehicle boasts such strong reinforcement that he can ram it into a wall and walk away without a scratch. Unfortunately for Pam, the passenger side lacks the safety provisions of the driver’s seat, and Mike uses this fact to kill her. He then stages a dramatic crash to off the other girls from the bar.
From there the movie skips ahead 14 months and introduces us to a few women who work on a movie crew. We get to know them – and they run into Mike after too long. The rest of the flick follows the results of that encounter.
Since I originally saw Death Proof as part of Grindhouse, it feels weird to view it on its own. I can’t say to what degree Tarantino created the flick to explicitly fit within the double feature framework, but some parts of Proof work less well when it doesn’t come paired with Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. There are some in-jokes that don’t connect when separated from Terror, and these take away from some of the double feature’s campy fun.
On the other hand, Proof benefits from the absence of the fatigue factor that occurred theatrically. As I noted at the start, Grindhouse created a long cinematic experience, so by the time we got to Proof, we’d already been in our seats for more than an hour and a half. That’s a long time to sit before a second flick starts, and I’m sure many viewers – me sort of included – weren’t quite up to it.
In addition, the sequencing of the two movies harmed Proof. While Terror offered a relentless action flick, Proof started with an extended series of dialogue sequences. After the pounding of Terror, it was tough to settle in and enjoy the much more leisurely pace of Proof. The movie eventually became involving, but it provoked more than a few groans along the way.
As its own, Proof no longer suffers from those concerns. I still wish we could get it in its original US theatrical form, as this DVD provides the extended international version; Grindhouse didn’t exist overseas, as the other territories ran it and Terror solo. This cut lasts more than 20 minutes longer and obviously stands on its own.
While I think it’d be nice to be able to see the full Grindhouse experience, Proof does fare better as a solo outing. It also benefits from a second screening. I have to admit the extended opening and all the dialogue didn’t work for me the first time, though again, sheer fatigue may have been an issue.
When viewed on its own, though, I don’t find any of the same concerns. Yes, Tarantino’s patented hipster dialogue can seem awfully forced, and no, this isn’t his best work. Nonetheless, if you accept the film’s slow pace, there’s a lot to dig into within those scenes. The character moments become more involving, and the tension clearer. When first screened, you don’t know where things are going, so you become frustrated by the pacing. The second time, though, you can invest in the scenes as they are without the pressure of expectations and a desire to see where the story will lead. That also increases the tension, as we know what’ll happen, so the slow build-up turns into torture.
When the action does come, it packs a serious punch. There’s not much of this material in the first half, but it’s brutal. This is all foreplay, however, as the best action comes during the last 20 minutes or so. We find some stunning stunt sequences through the climax. Even if the earlier material bores you, these moments earn the price of admission.
Kurt Russell also deserves praise for his excellent performance as Stuntman Mike. His scenes in the bar are wonderful, as he exhibits just the right level of rough-hewn charm to make the character likable. When he turns dark, however, he does so in a brutal manner that remains convincing. Russell also gets more character twists during the final fourth of the film, but I’ll leave those as a surprise – and a delightful one.
Death Proof seems destined to go down as Tarantino’s “worst” film, as even its partisans don’t appear to view it as comparable to his other work. I’m not sure Tarantino wants us to put it on the same level as something such as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. It feels more like something he did to indulge himself and less to meet the expectations of an audience. This means it doesn’t soar, but it does entertain.
Extended edition notes: as I mentioned, the DVD only includes the international version of Death Proof that runs more than 20 minutes longer than the Grindhouse cut. I can’t detail every change because I don’t know the film well enough. Notable additions come from the lap-dance scene – a “missing reel” theatrically that inspired a disappointed moan from every guy in the crowd – and a segment with the movie crew girls at a convenience store. That one shows more of Mike as he stalks them. It’s a good piece, though it appears in black and white for reasons I can’t discern.
Oh, we also get a new title card before we meet these girls. It tells us that those events take place 14 months after the opening sequence. There’d been some Internet rumors that the movie’s two segments were intentionally reversed as part of the bad theater experience; some folks felt the film crew segment actually came first chronologically. The title card establishes these theories were incorrect.
Otherwise, I think the longer cut just adds more dialogue here and there. I don’t feel any of this really changes/improves/whatever the movie, though it’s very hard for me to compare the solo Proof to the Grindhouse one because it becomes a different experience when not viewed after Planet Terror. I like this cut, though, and find no reason to slight it.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B
Death Proof appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. How in the world do I objectively critique a film with so many intentional flaws? Carefully, I guess.
As the prior statement implied, the major issue here came from print defects. Proof wants to look like a flick that’s been run through the projector about 2000 times. That means plenty of blemishes, scratches, streaks, breaks, gaps and misfires. Every single one was put there on purpose, so it becomes a mistake to really call them “print defects” – they’re stylistic choices. I can’t say they distract because they fit the goofy nature of the production, but they certainly crop up with great frequency.
At least through the first half of the flick, that is. For reasons unknown, Proof almost totally abandons the print defects for the movie crew girls. Why make one part of the movie look like crap and then show few flaws for the other? I have no clue, but it seemed like a weird choice.
Otherwise, Proof looked quite good. Sharpness only occasionally betrayed any concerns. A few shots came across as a little soft, but the majority of the flick seemed well-defined and concise. No jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement.
Colors tended to be a bit oversaturated and heavy, but this was another stylistic choice. The movie wanted a dense Seventies feel and it achieved that goal. Overall, the hues appeared pretty warm and rich, and they were more “normal” in the second half of the movie. Along with the lack of source flaws, that part came without the same level of color stylization. Blacks were deep and dense, and shadows showed really nice delineation. Because so many of the “flaws” were intentional, I couldn’t fault the transfer for them. This was a solid reproduction of the film.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Death Proof, it also succeeded – though it could be a little confused at times. Personally, I think the flick should’ve better embraced its Seventies inspirations and gone with a straight mono mix. That’s what a movie of this one’s ilk would’ve boasted 30 years ago; the decision to give it a worn-out Seventies look but a modern sound didn’t make sense to me.
Not that the film always embraced the multichannel possibilities. Early scenes barely blossom beyond the front center speaker, though that changed before long. Music always boasted really nice stereo imaging, as the mix of songs and score spread to the sides in a clear fashion.
Effects also opened up well, especially during the driving scenes. Those offered easily the most impressive material on display. The cars zoomed around the room in an invigorating fashion and used the surrounds well.
At all times, audio quality excelled. Speech was consistently natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded terrific, as both songs and score seemed lively and dynamic. Effects fell into the same range. Those elements were accurate and vivid. I found a lot to like in this mix.
A mix of extras pops up on this two-DVD set. Disc One only has a few minor components. We get the international trailer for Death Proof as well as an International Poster Gallery with 25 advertising images from around the world. The disc concludes with Sneak Peeks for Planet Terror, 1408, Black Sheep and Feast.
Over on DVD Two, we find six featurettes. Stunts on Wheels: Legendary Drivers of Death Proof goes for 20 minutes, 38 seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Quentin Tarantino, stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw, stunt people Buddy Joe Hooker, Tracy Keehn Dashnaw, Terry Leonard, Chrissy Weathersby and Steve Davison, and actors Kurt Russell and Tracie Thoms.
The show tells us about the stunt people, their work on the flick and the various stunts – mostly in the driving domain, of course. “Drivers” offers a decent look at these areas. It gives us some nice shots from the set, and we learn a bit about the stunts and related challenges. Unfortunately, it comes with an awful lot of praise and often just talks about how good – and tough – the stunts are. We get enough useful material to make it worthwhile, but it’s not as rich as I’d like.
We learn about one of the lead actors in the eight-minute and 58-second Introducing Zoë Bell. It features notes from Tarantino, Hooker, Russell, and actors Zoë Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Rosario Dawson. We hear how the stunt woman became an actor here and the issues she faced. I like this show since it lets us know how Tarantino developed the part for Bell and how she fared in the flick. It still comes with too much praise, but it provides a nice look at Bell.
Another actor-based featurette comes to us with Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike. The nine-minute and 33-second piece includes remarks from Tarantino, Russell, and Dawson. The piece looks at why Russell got the role as well as character elements and aspects of his performance. I like the parts that examine the concept of the character and what made Russell good for the role, but we still get too much praise through the piece. It’s a good but not great featurette.
Finding Quentin’s Gals goes for 21 minutes, 13 seconds, and includes statements from Tarantino, Dawson, Thoms, Russell, Winstead, Bell, and actors Sydney Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd. We hear about casting the various actresses, their characters and performances, and a few other cast notes. The parts in which we learn how Tarantino found the women and melded their roles for them are the best. Inevitably, we get some happy talk, but the content makes this one pretty good.
During the eight-minute and 15-second The Guys of Death Proof, we hear from Tarantino, Ladd, Poitier, and actors Eli Roth, Omar Doom, and Michael Bacall. “Guys” acts as a male-centered version of “Gals”, though it’s less substantial just because the movie includes no significant roles for men outside of Stuntman Mike. Still, it’s a good companion piece and it provides more fun notes about casting.
For the final featurette, we get Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke. The four-minute and 38-second piece offers notes from Tarantino as he discusses the film’s editing process. There’s not much information on display, though. Tarantino throws out a few editing issues, but most of the piece shows the cast outtakes as they greet Menke; she’s stuck away from the set, so this is a way to keep in touch. It’s cute but not terribly informative.
In addition to a trailer for Double Dare - a documentary about stuntwomen that includes Zoë Bell – we get The Uncut Version of “Baby, It’s You” Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This one-minute and 48-second clip shows the actor’s a capella crooning in its entirety. It’s not particularly fascinating as anything other than a way for Winstead to audition as a singer for other movies.
While Quentin Tarantino has always worn his “B”-movie influences on his sleeve, Death Proof digs deep into those roots – with pretty good success. I wouldn’t say it matches up to its better work, but it entertains and creates a fun homage. The DVD offers picture that’s very good within stylistic constraints along with solid audio and a few fairly interesting extras. This is a reasonably positive release for an unusual and enjoyable flick.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.16 Stars|| Number of Votes: 25|