The talents of Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino are on display for those willing to survive this bold, unrelenting homage to B-movies from the 1970's.
Grindhouse is two separate features with faux trailers by guest directors, including Eli Roth (Hostel). It calls to mind, for those hedonists and violence lovers, the prurience, the dubbed, and blaxploitation found in theatres. They were "grind" out in double and triple feature format.
It is interesting and hard-boiled, back-to-back in a way that these fan boy helmers get the nuance of something technically, and giddily doctored up. It doesn't represent the best, original work of either of them, but it represents a creation that hits on themes touched on in their earlier efforts like Kill Bill and Sin City.
It's hard not to think of George Romero when Rodriquez's Planet Terror first unspools; a chemical apocalypse hits rural Texas and makes for a zombie frenzy with plenty of fluids spewing from human orifices. The splatter and exploitative mayhem as circumstances whirl out of control within swerving storylines gets a bump and grind by way of missing reels and worn out, chopped footage.
Saturated with excess, Rodriquez keeps the gory amusement merrily churning as the actors here include Freddy Rodriguez as a gunslinger named El Wray, and Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton as married doctors trying to keep a hospital safe from infection. The darling in this trashy, yet glorious extravaganza has to be Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer, the ex of Wray, wildly played by Rose McGowan of Scream and TV's "Charmed." The kicker for Cherry being a machine gun in place of her left leg. It's a wry display on the notion that image is everything.
The car-chase action/ slasher staple Death Proof (shot in locations like summery Austin, Texas and the Santa Ynez Valley) rides high on conversation as Tarantino (also debut here as his own lenser) works muscularly from Kill Bill, especially in the use of color schemes. Kurt Russell is the cajoling, flirting, and truly evil and terrifying Stuntman Mike who preys on the opposite sex with his white-hot, revving Chevy Nova.
Those he covertly tracks include a foxy posse played by Sydney Tamilia Poitier (daughter of legend Sidney), Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever), and Vanessa Ferlito (Spider-Man 2). Also, the deranged, weathered rebel eyes the likes of Rosario Dawson (Clerks II), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Bobby, Final Destination 3), Tracie Thoms (Rent), and New Zealander Zoe Bell (Double Dare) who is better known for her stellar stuntwork as Uma Thurman and Halle Berry know well. She has a karma that connects with Tarantino's enthusiasm with pop culture and the entertainment industry.
The screenplay may be too leisurely devoted to courtship and intimacy before a visceral blind-side comes by way of incredible car chases (when Russell was relieved by stunt legend Buddy Joe Hooker). The rhythm changes speed like the vinyl records of yesteryear as the payoff may not justify how the apprehension unwinds through candid discourse.
For some, this sweeping kitch may be a grind, but one has to admire the detail, staging, and timing of these two perfectionists as they try to make something hip and cool in the process of aging film.