Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mini-Reviews (Batch 1)

Death Proof
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Vanessa Ferlito, Rosario Dawson, Rose MacGowan
Grade: C+

Originally coupled with Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror, as part of Grindhouse, a double-bill homage to B-movie's, Death Proof is the latest directorial feat of the infrequent Quentin Tarantino. It follows two groups of four women as they encounter the mysterious and dangerous Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in two separate incidents, both of which end up in a bloody mess.

Both groups of women exchange long periods of conversation that admittedly reveal little about them, but do provide some funny, snappy, and at times electric dialogue that give us enough to care about and/or relate to them. It's clear from the character of the 'Bride' in the Kill Bill movies that Tarantino has decided to exercise a more feminist approach to the role of women in action films, and thus we are treated to what is essentially a tribute to them. There is a definite subversion of gender roles evident with the traditional qualities of women in the genre (physical beauty and relative kick-ass ability) remaining but used to ultimately convey their superiority over men in what acts as a conceptual rebirth.

But to dig much deeper into the film would be contradicting the style in which it's made. Many will be dismayed at Death Proof's abandonment of any real attempt to adhere to any narrative structure, nor to detail the motivations of its characters beyond thrill-seeking. There's few who can get away with it but Tarantino has always been one to put the pleasure of his audience above cinematic protocol, and his passion in this respect amazingly atones somewhat for the film's often senseless disregard for clarity or cohesion. Death Proof may be a cinematic rebel of the most unfastidious variety, but there are few films this year I would rather be subjected to two more hours of.

Directed by D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LaBoeuf, Sarah Roemer, Aaron Yoo, David Morse, Carrie-Ann Moss, Jose Pablo Cantillo
Grade: B

Shia LaBeouf stars as troubled teenager Kale Brecht, who, after his Dad is killed in a car accident, struggles to cope with his grief, culminating in his assault of a teacher. The result is that he's put under house arrest for three months, but as Kale's boredom sets in he begins to develop a deep fascination with one of his neighbours' sinister activities. Couple that with a hot young blonde moving in next door and his punishment becomes a little more difficult to tolerate.

Undoubtedly the film bears significant resemblances to Hitchcock's 1954 masterpiece Rear Window, substituting James Stewart's broken leg for Shia LaBeouf's tracking device, and so forth. Indeed it's pre-decessor is often mimicked in the film, most notably by its villain Robert Turner (David Morse), a near-double of Rear's chilling antagonist Lars Thorwald. But what of this mimicry? Disturbia is most definitely an attempt to bring a classic story to a younger audience, re-vamping it through romance, gadgetry and the presence of youth. It's fresh, compelling, and has a script that's close to the tightness of the '54 classic, exercising a volatility that works well with the more impulsive younger generation Disturbia represents. Where it does fall short is with regard to voyeuristic obsession and combative showdown, of which it teeters, more than once, on the brink of teen-slasher territory.

The main reason for the film's success however, probably resides with Shia LaBoeuf, who demonstrates a charm, cuteness and likeability that you just cannot help but root for. His troubled, misunderstood badboy demeanor forming the basis for Disturbia's continual sense of injustice, Shia's Kale is a 'have-a-go' hero of the most convincing stature, driving our interest through his. LaBoeuf is more the dark wannabe than Stewart's bored busybody, and in this way epitomises Disturbia. But there's nothing wrong with being the dark wannabe. Such is youth.

1 comment:

RC said...

i still haven't seen disturbia yet...but it looks fun enough...i'll be interested to see what role Shia continues to get over the next couple years.

he's certainly getting some roles.