Masterpiece theater

By Aaron Allen, Chris Bellamy

“Grindhouse”The Weinstein CompanyWritten and directed by by Quentin Tarantino and Robert RodriguezStarring: Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell, Josh Brolin, Zoe Bell, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Michael Parks, Vanessa Ferlito, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Nicky Katt, Naveen Andrews and Bruce WillisRated R/191 minutesOpened April 6, 2007Four out of four stars

Aaron AllenChris Bellamy

Bellamy: Shocking in its brutality! Horrific in its depravity! Monstrous and stupefying in its sheer lunacy! Able to devour the soul of an innocent child in a mere three hours!

We’re here at the aftermath of the premiere of “Grindhouse,” and in the words of immortal WWF announcers of the past, I don’t believe what I just saw! We have just witnessed something so outrageous, so supercharged with testosterone and, yes, even estrogen, that it might reinvigorate the face of cinema itself! We’re here live, and let me tell you, people are running out of the theater screaming, so visceral was their cinematic experience! They’re peeling off the strip and running each other off the road! They’re attacking each other in mobs! Teenagers are losing their virginity as we speak! What do you make of all this, Aaron?

Allen: Satisfied, Chris. Satisfied in a way that only good-taste-be-damned filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez can satisfy. Satisfied in a way that not even my mom’s chicken broccoli casserole can satisfy. Sorry, Mom, but I prefer a new casserole now — one full of kick-ass action, sexy dialogue and a whole lot of cheese on top.

Bellamy: What with all the sheer perversity on display here tonight, the real question, Aaron, is are you still master of your domain?

Allen: No, Chris, the real question is will God forgive us for what we have just seen and enjoyed? And will the good Lord forgive me for getting in on some of that hot, animalistic mob depravity you spoke of? Here’s crossing my fingers that they were all over 17.

Bellamy: This was a true movie experience, Aaron. I’ll tell you, it takes me back to the halcyon days of my youth in the grimy 1970s, when I used to play hooky and spend all my days at the local grind-house theater, taking in all the cheap sex, fake gore and completely gratuitous bloodlust I could handle. Those were the days!

Allen: Yes, Chris, those were the days, indeed. I would take in double feature after double feature of badly dubbed kung-fu flicks, sexploitation romps and zombie-abundant sci-fi movies, one after the other. Sigh. I remember the sound of my sneakers sticking on and un-sticking from the grimy theater floor. The squeaky chairs wrapped in electrical tape, lest the stuffing and springs spill out. The smell of popcorn and unwashed scalps in the air. Yes, having been born in the early ’80s, we speak with authority on the ’70s grind-house experience.

Bellamy: Yeah, and then — aw, will you look at us carrying on like this? We haven’t even explained to the folks what we’re talking about! Let’s break down tonight’s shocking series of events in detail, as the aisles of the “Grindhouse” run red with cheap, over-saturated stage blood!

“Planet Terror” Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez

Bellamy: Now this one had everything, Aaron! Robert Rodriguez set out to make pure camp, and in the process he turned B-movies on their collective ass!

Ever think about what the secret factions of the U.S. government were doing in their spare time? Ever wonder why we haven’t heard much from Osama bin Laden lately? Well, Rodriguez has blown the lid off the whole damn thing! We’ve seen a widespread web of military corruption — somehow it’s all tied in with a flesh-eating virus, zombies, strippers and a sadistic scientist/businessman! I’m talking real sadism, folks! I’m talking cutting off people’s testicles! Shocking! It is shocking! Aaron?

Allen: Sorry, Chris, I wasn’t listening. I was too busy remembering Rose McGowan and her machine gun leg. Sexy woman + gun for appendage = pin-up girl for second amendment enthusiasts. Rose McGowan, you have the right to bear arms…and the right to arm your amputated leg with a gun that shoots bullets straight into my heart.

What Rodriguez does so well with his segment of “Grindhouse” is not only stay true to the B-movie aesthetic-scratchy print, terrifically bad acting, explosively wet gore-but also exaggerate it to the point of wink-wink hilarity. What a rush, Chris!

Bellamy: When people talk about true grind-house cinema, this is exactly what they’re talking about! This is as bad as it gets, folks-and by that I mean this is as good as it gets! Oh, the depravity!

Allen: Speaking of depraved, how about Eli Roth’s faux-movie trailer, “Thanksgiving?” A mad slasher is on the loose on the most belt-loosening day of the year. And how about the other trailers, Chris? Will you be seeing “Machete” or “Werewolf Women of the SS?”

Bellamy: You’re damn right I will! Machete knows the score, Aaron. And he gets the women! And he kills the bad guys! And would I ever pass up the opportunity to see Cheech Marin as a bloodthirsty, machine-gun-wielding priest? Of course not, don’t be silly.

“Death Proof” Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

Bellamy: Let’s get serious here, Aaron. After the sheer ridiculousness of “Planet Terror,” we don’t really see “Death Proof” coming. After all, the bloody destruction of an entire town, a woman with a machine gun for a leg and — best of all — a de-brained Fergie is a hard act to follow. But what does Tarantino decide to do? Completely shatter the conventions of the slasher genre, that’s what! I have just soiled myself! My colleague Aaron Allen is LITERALLY crying himself to sleep right now!

Allen: If I look a little droopy-eyed, Chris, it’s because of Tarantino’s momentum-killing dialogue. Quack-quack-quack-quack-quack. Geez! I can only take so much circle-the-point, pop-culture-infused chatter from Tarantino’s Russ Meyer-esque vixens before I get a little restless. Instead of “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” it’s more like “Faster, Tarantino! Reign it in! Reign it in!” After the adrenaline shot of “Planet Terror,” the slow build-up of “Death Proof” is almost deadly. Chris is vigorously shaking his head. Why are you doing that with your head, Chris?


Sure, it may be a jarring transition between the two halves of the twin bill, but that’s only because Tarantino is once again violating expectations and, instead of playing down to B-movie material, elevating it. What begins as a heartfelt story of three BFFs ends as a shocking display of ultra-violence and adrenaline-pumping highway excitement! Unbelievable!

The three friends in question are, innocently enough, on their way to the local dive bar to get loaded and, hopefully, find true love. But little do they know that what awaits is a fateful meeting with death at 200 miles per hour! Find out what happens when their paths cross with the killer known only as Stuntman Mike, played gloriously by Kurt Russell with a combination of overdramatic subtlety and maniacal joy. And when he takes to the road to claim his first victim?well, that is a moment for the ages! As serial killers go, Stuntman Mike’s display of purely enjoyable psychopathy is a tour de force! A tour de force, I tell you!

Allen: Yes, Kurt Russell certainly is the “driving” force behind Tarantino’s segment. Ha ha! Ha! When the victimized ladies turn the tables on Mike, all that slow buildup, all that near banal interaction between the ladies pays off with the most brilliantly shot car chase in many-a-moon. No CGI. No choppy editing. Just edge-of-your-seat, dashboard-clinging, pedal-to-the-metal, “Bullitt”-style vroom-vroom!

Bellamy: But it didn’t stop there, ladies and gentleman — no, it didn’t stop there. What proce
eded left us gasping! Weeping! Our lungs full of laughs and hearts full of glee! Witness! What Tarantino does to the mythological serial-killer archetype! Dare I say that you won’t believe what you’re seeing? Dare I say that turning such a time-honored format on its ear has never before been done in such brutally entertaining fashion? Well, I did dare. I said it. I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!