by Quentin Tarantino
This movie's problem is simple but unfortunately it pervades literally ever aspect of the production from the music to the casting to the cinematography to the hood ornaments: MASTURBATION!!! Death Proof has the dubious honor of being the film that perfectly captures what goes on in its director's head before he fouls up his boxers. Yes despite the film's initially scratched-look, its constantly name-dropping better movies, its music cues lifted from Italian horror films, its comparatively low-budget, its car-based murders, Death Proof is not the throwback it wants you to believe it is. It is the single most masturbatory movie ever made (note, this was true until I saw Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch). Quentin Tarantino used to be world-renowned for his dialogue, a sly blend of pop-culture references and an absurd amount of never-too-much swearing. Tarantino was cool and to be cool meant trying to be like Tarantino. The dialogue in Death Proof sounds like a man in his forties trying and failing to imagine what hot girls sound like when they're alone. Everytime someone speaks I missed the point of what they were saying because all I could hear anyone saying was "hello I'm the writer of this movie and I have concocted a clever manner of speech that all the characters engage in. It's great, you see they're all dropping the names of tv shows and movies that none of them could possibly know about ("You know that show The Virginian?" HAHA! Cause no one under 45 has seen that fucking shit! Or Convoy! Or Vanishing Point!) and then they typically make amazingly unsubtle sexual references that come off insanely mean-spirited and out-of-touch even though they're delivered with neck-swaying casualty." With that being shouted at me the whole time I had a hard time paying attention to just what the fuck anyone said in and around the car chases. It wasn't that I wasn't trying, it was just that I realized that absolutely, positively nothing said over the course of Death Proof's inexcusably baggy 114 minutes amounts to anything other than padding. A torturous second visit just reinforced my original assessment with a vengeance and made me want to throw myself down a flight of stairs because rankly it's not even fun to hear. It's all this constantly repeated, endlessly impressed-with-itself double talk that goes nowhere. Lines like: "Now there is one thing every girl in the whole world whose name is Shanna has in common with each other - we all hate the name Shawna. And we really hate when people call us Shawna," "What about "kinda cute, kinda hot, kinda sexy, hysterically funny, but not funny-looking guy who you could fuck" did you not understand?" and "how does one become a stuntman, stuntman mike?" are all insanely, monomaniacally unwieldy, especially when leaving the mouths of perpetually bored-looking actresses. Tarantino dialogue used to be the icing on the cake. Here it's a plate of lukewarm leftover tv-dinner masquerading as Bisteca Florentine and Baked Alaska; it's a metaphor drowning in another metaphor! Nearly half the screenplay shows up in the IMDB Quotes page and none of it is as clever as that implies. It's a movie filled with one-liners that resolutely fail to come alive in the mouths of a generation Tarantino didn't bother to figure out.
Drive Angry 3D
by Patrick Lussier
There are a lot of things stopping Drive Angry from being either as good or as wonderfully shitty as it should have been but the biggest problem with Drive Angry is that Lussier is too afraid to embrace the truly sleazy nature of his concept. A film like this doesn't need slow-motion unless it's the kind of slow-mo Sam Peckinpah used to use. It doesn't need music that isn't played by shit-kicking bar bands. It doesn't need super-cool car flipping or too-contained fight scenes or slick editing and cinematography or a reigned in, self-conscious performance from Nic Cage. It doesn't need someone like David Morse classing up the joint, or Amber Heard as the lead girl. In other words it's too 'cool' for it's own good. The idea of Cage fucking a waitress during a gunfight on paper sounds like the kind of Hal Needham or Peckinpah would have done with a straight face. Lussier on the other hand puts it in slow motion and plays The Raveonettes. Doesn't quite work; in fact none of his soundtrack choices work. Peaches and UNKLE aren't the soundtrack to a shitty car chase movie, they're the contents of a Canadian hipster's ipod. See the difference? The film's loaded with mistakes like that Heard's presence is too calculated and safe for a movie like this. Katy Mixon's cameo was more in keeping with the spirit of something like this (but not this), but frankly she's not even what you need. You need the kind of girl who you'd buy in a bar fight. Amber Heard puts on white trash for the duration, but you want the female equivalent of Strother Martin, someone who can match Cage's nutso charisma. And Cage is waaaaaay too calm for this movie. Where's the Cage of Bad Lieutenant? That's the crazy bastard I want escaping from Hell in a Challenger! Not the mildly respectable Cage we're stuck with here. In fact the only person who seems to fit the scenery is William Fitchner and he doesn't get nearly enough screentime. His performance as the Accountant is perfect and I wouldn't change it, I just want more of it.
I guess if you want to look at the problem in microcosm, let's examine the name of this beast. Drive Angry in 3D. It's no good. "Drive Angry" is a Groundhog Day reference. Already aiming way too high. "in 3D" sounds cheap and stupid, but really the 3D we're given is more in keeping with the trends of today rather than say the boneheaded audience baiting of Jaws 3D. This movie is too modern to be interesting simply because it claims the swagger of an old-fashioned drive-in movie. This is too self-aware and pretty to be the Race With The Devil remake it aches to be. What it needed was the kind of gimmicky shit that Tarantino tried to distract his audience with in the opening minutes of Death Proof. He once said that he'd "over-tweaked" Death Proof (on the list of things wrong with that film, that isn't even in the top twenty-five). The whole point of Death Proof (indeed the whole Grindhouse endeavor) was that it was supposed to look like it fell off the back of a truck on its way to the Capri in Cold Water, Michigan. If anything, when the movie stops doing the scratched-print and bad edits halfway through I just got more furious. No! Bring that shit on, says I! Otherwise, what the fuck is the point of the exercise!!!! It's just that kind of gimmickry that Drive Angry is missing. So while it was a perfectly enjoyable if regrettably stupid hour and a half, it wasn't the film I was promised. It was too cool to be filthy, too bad to be good, too good to be bad and so it's just kinda stupid; it didn't live up to its potential. What Drive Angry needed was someone who could have chipped the new paint and antiqued it a bit, who really understood the pantheon of shitty movies it was trying to enter. Just as what Death Proof needed was someone who could breathe some life into a DOA script and boring set-pieces.