Car Chases, Kurt Russell, and Female Empowerment
Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 collaboration with his good buddy Robert Rodriguez titled Grindhouse, featured two movies that exist within the genre that I spend most of my time in. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is much closer to a horror movie than a straight up action movie, but replace the zombies with aliens and you have yourself a brilliant sci-fi flick. Tarantino’s Death Proof is a little more difficult to fit into the action section of the Blockbuster (if they still existed) but given that the final 20 minutes or so is one long car chase, it’s fair to add it to the list.
Tarantino has never done things exactly as they have normally been done. Most of his movies have lingered too long on the violence, paid far more attention to sexuality, and given glimpses into the criminal underworld that many aren’t interested in getting too close to. But Death Proof is more plot-less and simplistic than his other films and probably struggles for that very reason. I know it’s hard to believe that any movie featuring an aging Kurt Russell as a foot-fetish having stuntman who jerks off after crashing his vehicle in terrible and deadly ways would not be a critical and commercial success, but Death Proof isn’t the type of movie that was made for the average movie goer. Most of the film is a handful of women being creepily stalked by Russell’s “Stuntman Mike”, as he plans his next group of victims.
If you’ve seen Death Proof then you know that the women in the above picture are far from the usual victims that Stuntman Mike is used to picking up. They not only go toe to toe with him, but they basically take turn beating the shit out of Russell until we’re given the still frame of the ladies standing over his broken body.
Aussie badass Zoë Bell is by far the most kickass of all the group after she literally hangs from the hood of a speeding muscle car for the duration of the climactic car chase between the ladies and the maniac stuntman. It’s one of those scenes that seems too crazy to actually be real but there’s no doubt in my mind that Bell should be abducted and driven directly to the next Death Race sequel immediately so she can share the screen with a return Jason Statham (make it happen!).
I’m one of those people who think that adding Kurt Russell to any movie can improve it five-fold so I was happy as can be when Death Proof offered Kurt the same comeback opportunity that Travolta got after Pulp Fiction. Stuntman Mike isn’t going to go down in history as one of the scarier villains in any type of movie but there is no other man to my knowledge who can pull off a character quite like Russell. It’s just a shame that he finally ran into three badass babes like Bell, Rosario Dawson, and Tracie Thorns and in the end he went down crying like a little bitch.