Finally Dendy got around to showing Grindhouse as a back-to-back feature in Australia, and I was lucky enough to get in to see this incredibly fun experience.
Grindhouse is a joint effort from directors Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado) and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill). It's a homage to the exploitation films of the 60s and 70s, and features an outrageous B-movie by each director put back to back and surrounded by some fake film trailers from the likes of Edgar Wright, Eli Wroth and Rob Zombie. The experience comes complete with added film grain, stuttering audio, and "missing reels".
For Rodriguez, Grindhouse is an excuse to make the sort of movies he's been making his entire career, and his contribution (Planet Terror) is a machismo-fuelled zombie flick loaded with hilariously outrageous characters and stand-up-and-applaud over-the-top action. His fetish for hot women, charming outlaws, and guns-instead-of-body-parts is out on display and dancing a flamenco, but where this is occasionally cringeworthy in his other films, in Grindhouse it's right at home.
Tarantino, on the other hand, initially flirts with the exploitation theme in his film Death Proof, but shortly abandons it in favour of making a grrl-power Australian-style road movie. It's not as well-paced as Planet Terror, but it's easily the cleverer film and features a great upbeat ending that left the audience at the cinema I was in cheering. (It also, strangely, features Uma Thurman's stunt double Zoe Bell in a major role, playing of all things Uma Thurman's stunt double Zoe Bell.)
The women are the star of the show in both films. Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Clerks II) is predictably wonderful in Death Proof; co-star Tracey Thoms (Wonderfalls, Cold Case) seems like she's been told to "black it up a notch", and comes across as a little one-dimensional. Zoe Bell is great but seems as if she's in a different type of movie to Dawson and Thoms. Rose McGowan (Scream, Charmed) and Marley Shelton (Sin City, Pleasantville) appear in both segments, and are a perfect fit to the content.
On the male side, Freddy Rodriguez leads Planet Terror as likeable drifter El Wray, and Kurt Russell is the villainous Stuntman Mike in Death Proof - Rodriguez is competent in an undemanding role, but Russell really shines and seems to be having fun in the process.
Many actors appear across both films in roles which are similar or the same. Death Proof and Planet Terror have unfortunately been distributed seperately in Australia, but if you get the chance to see them as they were intended, back to back with trailers included, you should absolutely take it. There's an extra spark that comes from putting these movies together that you won't get from splitting them up.
Grindhouse turned out to be one of the most fun films I've seen this year, and leaves me with almost nothing to complain about. Don't miss out on the enjoyment, and don't let the dodgy Australian distribution cheat you out of the experience.