Rollin’ down the highway, with a pair of lady-legs propped up on the dashboard... As well as being a fillip for foot-fetishists, Death Proof’s POV opener could be a sly metaphor: Quentin Tarantino putting his feet up. Even in expanded, stand-alone form, it still retains the self-pleasing, throwaway air of the shorter cut that made up the second half of 2007’s greatest lost movie (at least to UK viewers), Grindhouse. As self-pleasing throwaways go, though, Death Proof is an utter blast: sexy, spunky and uproarious.
There is one caveat, mind: pre-release, QT promised us “a slasher movie at 200mph.” Truth is, the film cruises at a steady 40 without a hint of slashing for most of its first hour. There’s talk. Acres of it. Car talk, bar talk... It’s not, as we’ve said before, Quentin at his most quotable, but the cast chews on every syllable with infectious relish. First up there’s our B-team: four gal-pals (mostly celebrities’ daughters – Jordan Ladd, Sydney Tamiia Poitier) on a boozy night out. Good times roll ‘till they’re targeted by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, charming and chilling in his best role since 2002’s Dark Blue), a jolly wacko whose customised muscle car’s is a lethal vehicle for his genocidal urges.
One stunning, multi-angled, action-replayed prang later, and up pops our A-team: a Fox Force Four comprising Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Zoë Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s the latter who benefits the most from the 27 mins of reinstated footage (including an ominous-playful monochrome interlude). Woman of the match, though, is real-life stunt player Bell. Uma’s Kill Bill double manages to overcome her limited thesping experience with sheer, unaffected zeal before strapping herself to the bonnet of a speeding Dodge Challenger for the climactic chase. It’s a cheerable act of no-CGI, no-strings daredevilry, the most eye-boggling example of Death Proof’s old-skool nostalgia (including lovingly applied scratches and glitches, as well as shout-outs to gearhead classics like Vanishing Point). The last race delivers an electrifying payoff, with its roar of smash-’em-up action and hilarious (plot) reversals driving towards a final shot that’s even cooler than the first.
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Now with added lapdance, QT's B-movie homage to cars and girls deploys its cheap thrills with laid-back craft and class. Russell's wicked fun, Bell's a true trooper. Distributors! Can we have Planet Terror now, please?