Updated: Aug 23, 2021
So let’s just set this straight. Quentin Tarantino has not made a bad movie. He has not even made just an ok movie. He has made some good movies, and then some great movies! Sure, they are at times over the top, long, and absurdly violent, but Tarantino can sure as hell make a great movie! Death Proof (2007) is not one of them.
Death Proof is Tarantino’s take on exploitation cinema—low quality, B-rated movies that fall into niche genres with cult followings. These films usually have bizarre elements like explicit sex, overdone gore, or rebellious chaos (monsters, aliens, car crashes, attacks on society, etc.) Historically, exploitation films were edited and cut in poor fashion, consisted of gimmicky acting performances, and feature themes of unrealistic displays of destruction. And oh boy, this is exactly what Death Proof is to Quentin Tarantino.
Practices of exploitation films included “Grindhouse” theaters. These theaters were popularized in the 1960s and 1970s and mainly showed exploitation cinema through drive-in theaters showing double featurettes of the low-grade films. So why would the auteur in Tarantino be any different? So naturally, Tarantino released Death Proof as a part of Grindhouse which combined his director friend, Robert Rodriquez’s film, Planet Terror (2007), and the two projects were shown in a double feature screening. After underperforming at the box office, the two films were then released separately as standalone films.
Tarantino does a good job at placing Kurt Russell as “Stuntman Mike” who plays an intriguing character as a Hollywood stuntman, but this time, this stunt man is different. Mike goes around with his car that was tricked out by a stunt team to make it “death proof” and preys on young women as he hunts them down and brutally murders them with the car. And I wish I could go on and give more detail about the film’s plot, but in reality… that’s really it. Death Proof is just about a crazed stuntman who kills women with his vehicle.
During his Directors Roundtable Interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tarantino was honest by saying Death Proof is his worst film stating, “Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever make. And for a left-handed movie, that wasn't so bad, all right? -- so if that's the worst I ever get, I'm good” (Chitwood). Which the legendary filmmaker makes a point! Sure the acting is not great, the film stock was purposely damaged to give its authentic, 1970s grindhouse, rustic look, and the editing skips, jitters and jumps around. But the film is definitely still enjoyable! Now, stylistically this may sound interesting. However, the drastic intentions to purposely produce a poor quality look, unfortunately takes away from the movie as it is almost deemed distracting. Tarantino admitted later in an interview that he believed he "over-tweaked" Death Proof, but was still very proud of it (IMDb). So, all-in-all, this film was a fun watch, but it overall takes a large hit due to the project’s low-grade outcome.
Sure, Kurt Russell plays a maniac. And yes, Tarantino took Zoë Bell, who was Uma Thurman’s stuntwoman in Kill Bill and turned her into an actress who plays as a stuntwoman herself. All great things about the movie, but unfortunately the characters in the film are ones I never got to fully attach myself to or care about. Unlike his other work, Death Proof does not feature any popular or catchy soundtracks. And lastly, the production of the movie just sucks! Death Proof was a large miss after the Kill Bill box office smashes.
Story/Plot – 15/20 Direction – 16/20 Acting - 15/20
Cinematography – 15/20 Score/Soundtrack – 15/20
The Founder of @HennionProductions,