Death Proof is done in the exploitative “grindhouse” style of a 70’s carsploitation flick. With a dash of slasher conventions. Death Proof is presently the last Quentin Tarantino film set in modern day. As well as the last one I watched, because of its attachment to Grindhouse. Tarantino developed the project due to a fascination with death-proof stunt cars. The “B” movie concept made it a worthy second feature for Grindhouse. Only Death Proof doesn’t work quite as well when compared to Planet Terror. The degraded footage isn’t as noticeable and apart from a quick Thunderbolt retitling gag, there’s also a reel missing. Rodriguez and Tarantino are best friends, but his only real contribution to the film was the title. That’s why Death Proof is better on its own at a nearly 2 hour runtime.
In true Tarantino fashion, Death Proof opens on a shot of a woman’s feet. Like most exploitation flicks, shots of sexy curvaceous women are commonplace. Only for Tarantino that means the most barefoot shots in any of his films. Death Proof is sort of split in 2 parts with distinctly different groups of women. Kurt Russell is the psychotic Stuntman Mike. A man who preys on women by killing them with his death-proof stunt car. Actors from Planet Terror also appear. Like Rose McGowan as a starkly different victim of Mike’s. Dr. Dakota Block and her Texas ranger father even make cameos. The first girl group is made up of Arlene, Shanna, and radio DJ Jungle Julia. They encounter Stuntman Mike in a bar attended by Eli Roth and Tarantino himself. Because of a radio announcement, Arlene gives Mike a steamy fully clothed lap dance in a scene that’s missing from the Grindhouse cut.
Mike is terrifying when shockingly killing the well developed women. So a new group made of of make-up artist Abernathy, cheerleader actress Lee, and stunt double Kim take their place. The more well known Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead play a part. As does real life stuntwoman Zoë Bell. Their artsy black & white introduction is so much better than their arbitrary one. While performing a crazy dangerous stunt on the hood of the Vanishing Point car, the girls are pursued by Mike in broad daylight. He quickly becomes a wimp and there’s something satisfying about seeing women beat up a predator. While far from his best work, Death Proof nevertheless plays to Tarantino’s high octane strengths.