Tarantino’s latest creation has been a box-office disappointment and I must admit, after not really being sure what to make of it myself, I did become addicted to wading through discussion forums to gauge other viewer’s responses. Originally made to be screened as part of a double feature collaboration by Tarantino and Rodriguez called Grindhouse (2007), Death Proof is Tarantino’s half of this homage to the seventies b-movie. In short it’s about a badass stuntman (Kurt Russell) who stalks attractive women to kill using his ‘death proof’ muscle car. Sound cheesy? That’s just the problem – it’s supposed to be, raising the question as to how a film like this is valued. The arguments for and against Death Proof are various, though the discussion board forum itself becomes tiresome as too often what starts as an interesting avenue for debate very quickly degenerates into name calling which goes nowhere. I did manage however, (before fear of my head imploding) to gather some of the common viewer responses so far. Perhaps the most common problem detractors find with the film is its dialogue centered story – all talk and no play makes the viewer bored especially after they’ve been primed for the pleasures of a mindless b-grade exploitation flick. For a long time we’re watching a bunch of girls talking inconsequential matters (reminiscent of the guys in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, only less funny for its lack of irony.) Supporters praise the dialogue for its realism, these girls are indeed ordinary people – not gangsters. Listening to the dialogue in these scenes, there is however, credence to be given to the argument that these women are not ordinary but QT’s fantasy girlfriends (think Alabama in True Romance), or on a more disturbing note, QT in disguise, leading to the claim that Death Proof is self-indulgent.Genre-wise the film seems a bit confused, another issue for viewers. For some Death Proof has an identity crisis, not sure whether it’s a slasher, a chick’s coming of age road movie or a revenge flick. But then who says a film has to conform to these structures?
Arguments for and against the film’s feminist stance also abound – are the women in the latter half of the film empowered? Are they insane and therefore as reprehensible as their antagonist or simply men themselves?
The bottom line from fans seems to be this – if you don’t like it, you don’t get it. To which, the standard response is – oh, we get it – we just don’t like it. Unfortunately that’s about as far as the argument goes. So is Death Proof so bad it’s good, or just simply bad? What makes this a good film? If it’s entertaining, if it’s true to the grindhouse tradition, if it makes it at the box office, or if it fails dismally and is revived on dvd by the niche market it was intended for?