Death Proof ★★★★½

Review In A Nutshell:

Quentin Tarantino truly loves cinema, a being that puts his heart and soul into his work and manages to do so while retaining an accessible quality; exposing to the mainstream audience, the lost arts of the medium. Death Proof takes inspiration from the crummy slasher films of the 60s, 70s, and 80s; a moment in American cinema where exploitation cinema found their footing, realising that profit could be found when the right criteria is pushed in their products. My adoration for Death Proof started off rocky, with the film initially feeling over-indulgent and senseless, as compared to his other works. My adoration for the film grew as I repeatedly came back, finding love in the little details in its characters and constantly left amazed by its climactic chase sequence, surpassing anything that I have ever seen in cinema.

Death Proof's plot is cut into two sections, both following the day/night of four girls while a sick car stuntman stalks them and attempts to murder them. Both sections retain that slasher vibe, but both play out different from one another, and the characters are written with enough variety that it never felt repetitive. The first half demonstrates the methods of its killer, the commitment in achieving those methods, and the extreme sense of pleasure he finds in it. It is no doubt a figure we have seen timelessly in similar films, but what makes him so damn fascinating is Tarantino's handling of the character, providing him with an abundance of personality, driven by witty and entertaining dialogue that masquerades the dark soul that lingers beneath him. It becomes more frightening during subsequent viewings as the film has already exposed us the extent of his madness, and to see him lure his prey with such calmness and charm makes it all the more shocking when experienced through the second, third, or even fourth time.

Though much of the marketing and hype surround the sadistic killer, Tarantino does not forget his ladies. Much like all of his other films, his women stand out, they possess a particular sexuality that is alluring and uses it intelligently to their advantage; Tarantino refuses to let them be sidekicks to the dominating man, and this film speaks on it more loudly than any of his other films. Superficially, they are seen as prey and objects to stimulate our inner desires, death and fornication; but Tarantino treats them the same as Stuntman Mike, even the women in the first half, whom become slaves to the plot, are seen as figures with layered personalities, spilling out dialogue that slowly draws you into their problems, to the point where one could actually feel sympathy for their romances; Jungle Julia has a romantic past that Tarantino barely explores, but when he does, it adds flavour to these would be one-dimensional characters. When misfortunes fall upon them, we actually feel the pain of loss, the idea that these women were broken and taken for one man's sick pleasure.

The women on the second half are much different in personality; they are much tougher, they have experienced harsher experiences in their lives, requiring them to create a hardened exterior to protect themselves from emotional or physical pain; though not to the point where they don't seem plausible anymore, they are still figures we commonly find in our society. When the killer stumbles upon these women, he misjudges them, ergo the cause of the harsh backlash. Tarantino contrasts the two group of women as the past vs present; with the former representing the personalities of the past where their sexuality is found in the surface, women who are easily manipulated and abused; while the latter's inner and outer strength make them a difficult foe to break down, but Tarantino also ensures that they are human and would react in a state of panic and fear during the most threatening of moments. Death Proof could be, in Tarantino's own special way act as a representation of female empowerment, slowly evolving as time moves forward. Though this could be easily dismissed as Tarantino's approach is heavy and indulgent, to the point where one could lose themselves to its superficiality.

Death Proof's visuals are clearly inspired to the grindhouse films of the past, an approach that unapologetically embraces it and provide the audience a unique experience at the theatre. The film's first half is full of dirt and scratches, uneven editing, prominent and atmospheric music choices and simplistic backdrops to tell its story. This approach is abandoned in the second half for a more traditional method of shooting, possibly to further emphasise the differences in its women from the first to the second half, but this could have easily just been a coincidence. I also want to note the film's climax, shot gloriously that captures the speed of its two vehicles, feeling every impact during every bump, a nail-biting experience that would leave you tense and enthralled. It all ends with a sudden kick in the head and April March's Chick Habit; a state of euphoria like no other.

The performances in this film are mighty impressive, with notable names (at least for me) inhabiting Tarantino's women; there is a sense of coolness and ease in their performance, as if their parts were written specifically for them, especially Jungle Julia and Zoe Bell. Tarantino understands audience expectations and exploits his casting choices as much as he can, with emphasis in Jungle Julia's glorious legs; an infatuation grows in me that I cannot easily get out of. Do not come into Death Proof and expect to be moved by the cast's efforts, their beauty is found in their exteriors and requiring minimal effort to gain a comprehensive insight. This does make certain scenes feel flawed, at times slowing down the film with little to no purpose, but their incidence are rare enough that it barely affects my perception of the film.

Death Proof is another glorious film by Tarantino that preaches its influences without hesitation. This is a film that is easily dismissed by its audiences but it takes a passionate master craftsman to achieve and flourish with a film like this.

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