Anyone else see "Grindhouse"? The wife and I saw it at the drive-in on Friday night. It was an unseasonably cold night and the lot was packed. Apparently not so the other theaters in the country showing "Grindhouse". This Tarantino/Rodriguez-directed "double feature" made a paltry $11.6 million on its opening weekend, coming in fourth place. "Blades of Glory" was first in its second week, the animated "Meet the Robinsons" came in second, and you know what was third? "Are We Done Yet?", the family-oriented Ice Cube-starrer fresh out of the box this weekend. Analysts pointed to "Grindhouse"'s 3-hour plus running time and its R-rating as checks in the minus column, but $11.6 million? Either I have to fault the Weinstein Company's advertising strategy, or I have to agree with the blog runner on Whatwouldtylerdurdendo.com, who said in response to "Grindhouse"'s anemic box office total: "Everyone sucks."
The film is a lot of fun. I'm guessing that Tarantino was the brainchild behind this project because the filmmakers seem to put as much emphasis on the filmgoing experience of seeing "a grindhouse-style movie" as they do on the actual films that comprise "Grindhouse". Tarantino's own movies are filled with nods to the schlock entertainment titles shown at so-called grindhouse back in the day, particularly his recent "Kill Bill" films. I'm a product of bland suburban multiplexes, myself, so whatever nostalgia high "Grindhouse" might have offered was lost on me. but I appreciated how dedicated to the idea of recreating the grindhouse experience these two guys were. There were a lot of ways they could have expressed their enduring admiration for these old exploitative films, and a lot of them much less risky, less potentially off-putting to casual filmgoers than this. "Grindhouse" is a true double-feature, for one. Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" runs first, than Tarantino's "Death Proof" making it 3 hours and 11 minutes long. They add film-deterioration effects to the film. There is an intermission (I don't know how long it was as I went to the concession stand for candy during it). The dialogue is sometimes purposely bad (I think purposely). In keeping with the customary practice of projectionists snipping out the "best parts" of the movie for their own private highlight reels, both films are missing reels. In "Planet Terror", the missing reel is hilariously pivotal to the plot. In "Death Proof", the missing reel is a hilarious (but malicious) tease. Rodriguez and Tarantino even invited current horror directors to create their own grindhouse-style trailers for nonexistent movies, which run before each movie. (They're all pretty hilarious, by the way.) Even if "Grindhouse" had been a bore (which it certainly wasn't), these guys, including the Weinsteins (though grudgingly) deserve a lot of respect for pulling this off. Though the embarrassingly low totals for its opening weekend box office suggest most of
"Planet Terror" is pretty fun, but for me the weaker of the two movies. Schlocky zombie epidemic gorefest. Josh Brolin is very funny in it, and I liked seeing Jeff Fahey get a plum role in an A-list project, but there was a bit too much of Rodriguez's typical excesses and not enough stuff I hadn't seen a million times. Also, Rose McGowan's charms as an actress were completely lost on me here. "Death Proof" had a lot more going for it, I think. Kurt Russell's turn as the inscrutable and villainous Stuntman Mike was riveting. I'm still not quite sure if Tarantino was off his game in how he wrote Stuntman Mike because at first glance his writing seems uneven and weird; though the more I think about it the more persuaded I am that there are hidden depths to Stuntman Mike that are only glancingly alluded to. I also liked the first killing scene. One of the hallmarks of a good horror movie is a new and shocking way to kill people. Tarantino delivers here I think, but then abandons the idea of a one-by-one kind of killer and the first of the film's two acts abruptly ends with a strange but terrifying act of violence.
But then the second half of "Death Proof" begins and it feels a little like Tarantino hitting the reset button on his movie. A brand new gaggle of mouthy, leggy girls in a car? Check. Stuntman Mike lurking in the background? Check. This second half starts slow, and by the time this new group of ladies starts talking, I'm already getting weary of Tarantino's pop-culture laden dialogue, which has become increasingly esoteric. With each new Tarantino movie it's getting more difficult for me to separate the dialogue coming from the mouths of his actors from the image of Tarantino's grinning gargoyle face hunched over the keyboard typing it up. (Which is another reason I really like Russell's Stuntman Mike. When he spoke his lines, I didn't hear Tarantino nearly as much as with the others). The fact that Tarantino inserts himself into both films doesn't help. But anyway, he makes up for it with the extended car chase scene that comprises most of this half of "Death Proof". He casts Zoe Bell, (who was Uma Thurman's stunt double on "Kill Bill" as herself), and so when she's required to do some hellacious stunt work for the long car chase, that's her you see in mortal peril. Her terrified expression. It's a great idea and it makes the chase scene all the more visceral and real. The end of the film I won't give away, but I will say I had a good laugh when the "The End" title appeared on-screen.
Because it tanked here in the states, Weinstein has said he wants to split the movie into two movies in a couple weeks, and add in the "missing" reels left out of the double feature version of "Grindhouse". Hope they manage to eke out some cash from this thing.