My reviews often contain spoilers. So consider yourself warned.
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The Grindhouse films have one hell of a feminist slant – and coming from two prominent male directors, working at the top of their game, this is something to behold (especially for the podophiliacs among us). In the first feature, Planet Terror, not only does Fergie know exactly what is wrong with her car when it overheats, but she also doesn’t need any man to help her fix it. And Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer who loses a leg in a zombie attack, initially takes the new with tears and even though it is her ex-flame Freddy Rodriguez who gives her the power to see beyond it (and first the wooden stump to replace it and later the iconic machine gun) it is she who comes out of the film as the supreme hero. When escaping from the military base in the final act, even Freddy stands back as she vanquishes the foes with her new appendage – and he is a character presented to us as major player, masterful with weapons, even awakening respect in the hard ass sheriff when his true identity is “revealed.” He is El Wray, after all. But it is Cherry Darling who in the end protects and continues the human race, seeking the lost and misplaced and taking them to her kingdom by the sea.
Planet Terror: B+
Death Proof is even more female empowerment – Kurt Russell playing an insane and homicidal stunt man may ravage and ruin five beauties before getting his due, but is it a new generation of female drivers who give him his comeuppance, not about to let him get away with his little joyride. Death Proof is also remarkable for the time it takes to introduce us to the various characters, to let us live with them for a while and experience their world – they don’t exist merely to give us something pretty to look at before being quickly executed. We follow two separate sets of girls for quite considerable durations before the mechanics of the plot kick in – the girls are verbal, catty and supremely enjoyable. The majority of this film is simply us listening in on the conversations they have as they hang out – this is significant not only because these passages are made as exciting as the action sequences – but because they exists at all. How rare is it not only for a film to feature such strong women in central roles – but so many of them – and to allow them to actually fill the screen and come into their own while other elements – the cars, the carnage – take a backseat. Give a glance to the male counterparts and you’ll find they’re all disappointments, dicks or psychotic. The Grindhouse films may be a throw back to the 70s flicks that inspired the directors (complete with fake trailers and mangled and missing reels) but they are about as far from exploitation as you can get.
Death Proof: B+