I'll cut straight to the point: if you love 1970's exploitation flicks the way I do, stop reading this right now and get your ass on line for GRINDHOUSE. The film aims to recreate the experience of sitting through a sex-and-violence-drenched double feature in a grungy environment, complete with simulated shit-quality prints and dubious trailers, and succeeds in spades. And it really is a double feature, with the two films and other goodies adding up to three hours and eleven minutes of balls-out mayhem.
The first feature is Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR, an ultra-gory throwback to the days when zombie flicks ruled the screen (with a strong dose of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK thrown in for goood measure) and logic came in a distant second. An experimental gas escapes into the air of a small Texas town, rendering most of the populace into flesh-scarfing, pustule-festooned undead, and those lucky few who find themselves immune must take up arms and kick motherfucking ass to stay alive and attempt to stop the gas from spreading and bringing about the end of the world. Rose McGowan headlines as go-go dancer Cherry Darling, whose unfortunate encounter with some flesh-munchers leaves her minus one leg, and her mysterious ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, the director's little bro), proves to be quite the badass as he dispatches zombies with extreme prejudice and equips Cherry with a machine gun/grenade launcher prosthetic limb. In between offal-showering set pieces, there's a healthy streak of ludicrous humor, and I laughed my ass throughout at the over-the-top gleeful bedlam of the whole thing.
After some fake trailers (I won't spoil the surprises, because they're laugh-out-loud hilarious, especially the one with Nicolas Cage in the most outrageous role of his entire career) we get Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF, a delightfully schizophrenic hybrid of VANISHING POINT's gearhead histrionics, the psycho-behind-the-wheel found in flicks like DUEL and THE CAR, and the tough girl genre best exemplified by the immortal FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! The story gets off to a slow start as we meet four young women who are unwittingly stalked by the scarfaced Stuntman Mike, played by one of my all-time favorite actors, Kurt Russell, who looks like he's having too much fun for his own good.
Stuntman Mike is a particularly sadistic yet charming vehicular serial killer, and after the story pulls a PSYCHO by letting us get to know and care about the women only to have them horribly killed (I rather liked the bouncing severed leg), another group of women is introduced. This quartet consists of two professional Hollywood stuntwomen, an up-and-coming actress, and a makeup artist, and when Stuntman Mike sets his jaundiced sights on them he doesn't realize he's chosen absolutely the WRONG bunch of girls to fuck with. All of this leads to one of the most harrowing and spectacular chase scenes since maybe as far back as THE ROAD WARRIOR, with real-life Kiwi stunt maniac Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman's stunt double on KILL BILL, here playing herself) giving her all on a car hood as she holds on for dear life at nearly two-hundred miles per hour while Stuntman Mike attempts to run her and her companions off the road.
Zoe Bell: pretty — and badassed like a motherfucker — in pink.
No bullshit, campers, I have not had this much fun at the movies in years, and I left the theater with a smile on my face so big that my head nearly split in half. Do NOT miss GRINDHOUSE in the theater; it'll still be excellent fun on DVD, but a major part of the experience is seeing it with an audience of jazzed-up louts who are in on the vibe and whoop and holler at all the right places. You've heard of other films being touted as "thrill rides," but GRINDHOUSE actually delivers a cracking good, sleazy romp just as exhilirating as a go-round on the Wild Mouse with a gut full of tequila and a brain pan full of really good LSD. I know it's early yet, but GRINDHOUSE not only gets my highest recommendation, but also steps up as my choice for the most entertaining movie of 2007. And considering how pussified R rated movies have become in the violence and gore department over the past twenty-five years or so, I have no idea whatsoever how they got away with even a third of the gruesome carnage on display here. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!