Grindhouse, If only…

So I decided to see Grindhouse over the weekend, and I was blown away. Apparently, this makes me a minority much to the consternation of the enlightened few. I really enjoyed both movies and all the awesome filler that went between them. The “Thanksgiving” horror film parody by Eli Roth was especially charming, in a gag-inducing kind of way. The talent level of everyone involved in the project is through the roof, and the whole idea was original and clever (two qualities I find sorely lacking in most of the detritus that washes into theaters every week.) In some ways, the movie didn’t come together as seamlessly as it could have but the sheer audacious ballsiness required to push something as extreme as Grindhouse into local cineplexes and the joy that obvious went in to making it even out the rough patches.

As you probably know, Grindhouse is two films in one, a classic double feature of the kind I often treat myself to when I weasel my way out of work.

Planet Terror is Robert Rodriguez’ contribution and rocks the house. I was worried that it would be too cartoony, a flaw I find in some of his films and which I detected in the standees depicting Rose McGowan with a machine gun leg. My fears were not entirely unfounded, but the director won me over. It’s a zombie apocalypse film, a genre that I never get tired of. The action was heavy and just a touch over the top but it was so obvious that Rodriguez had a ball making it that the energy of the movie was infectious.

In between the films, there are a number of fake trailers. Kick-ass across the board.

The second part of Grindhouse is a 70’s car chase movie filtered through the talkiest portions of Quentin Tarantino’s brain. There are more than a few long, exceedingly talky scenes before the action kicks in and the rubber meets the road. It’s vintage Tarantino from top to bottom, and if you enjoy that kind of thing you’re in luck. If not, at least you know what you’re getting into. I am a fan of QT so I was okay with the pop-culture references and endless back-and-forth but I did have trouble switching gears from the zombie gunfights of the first entry to the more cerebral dialogue driven opening of Deathproof. It was jarring, but once I had shifted mental gears I was impressed. The end of the film is one extended car chase that blows away any other I’ve seen in recent memory. There are some interesting reversals of typical slasher/chase movie stereotypes and it almost feels like Deathproof was composed of two separate Rashomon-like riffs on the same theme, very nearly giving us 3 films for the price of one.

So it was original, clever, well made, funny, exciting and extreme. So of course people hated it. It didn’t make a whole lot of many, and people are calling it a failure. The length was an issue for many, and at nearly three and a half hours, I can see why people may have been worried about “restless ass” syndrome and I was doing some shifting in the seat before it was over. But it was more than worth putting in the running time, and I appreciate the whole experience more than I think I would enjoy either film on its own. There was a definite gestalt effect that would just be lost if the films came out separately (which is how it will be released overseas, and is being considered here.) I just don’t know.

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