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Friday, April 6, 2007 - Page updated at 02:01 AM

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Movie Review

"Grindhouse" | So cool, it's scary: the ultimate horror homage

Seattle Times staff reporter

Shocking gore. Excessive violence. Gratuitous nudity. Exploding pustules. Hey, maybe your childhood was different than mine.

But even if you didn't grow up with cheapo exploitation flicks of the '70s, you'd have to be The Man not to find Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's homage/spoof of them to be the following: outrageous, bold, incredibly cool, funny and a kilo of splatteriffic fun. And for the record, !@#$% The Man.

The ambitious three-hour-plus project is the closest you'll come to a night at the drive-in on the roof of a Dodge Dart Swinger: a double-bill of feature-length main attractions with a quartet of satirically spot-on trailers by other notable genre directors for horror movies that don't exist. It's all replete with added scratches, pops and lines in the film — even missing reels, to hilarious effect.

Movie review 3.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Grindhouse," with Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Josh Brolin, Michael Biehn and Naveen Andrews. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

Rated R for strong, graphic, bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use. 191 minutes.

First is Rodriguez's "Planet Terror," with Rose McGowan as go-go dancer Cherry Darling, who walks off her job and into a plague of ravenous, pus-spurting zombies. Bruce Willis ("Pulp Fiction") is the military hard-case who kicks off the feeding frenzy. Freddy Rodriguez ("Six Feet Under") is an unexpectedly good action hero, "El Wray." He drives a tow truck but has a mysterious past implied by the fact that the sheriff (Michael Biehn, "The Terminator," "Aliens") won't let him pack heat. Sadistic doctor Josh Brolin (seriously) is determined to punish his cheating lesbian wife (Marley Shelton) amid the chaos.

It doesn't take long for the full-throttle, no-excuses, disgusting action to kick in. Highlights include a helicopter lawn-mowering so many creatures that it needs windshield wipers. And the main highlight: McGowan, who loses a leg to the zombies, gets it replaced by an assault rifle, and proceeds to strike iconic poses as she mows down plenty of her own. I don't even know how she was supposed to be firing the gun, but if you're hung up on details like that, you're at the wrong movie.

Tarantino's "Death Proof" is a huge shift in gears, languid and talky for long periods that seem to drag — depending on how you like Tarantino's patented quirky dialogue — but wind up expertly manipulating the sympathetic nervous system. McGowan shows up again as a victim of psychotic Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, perfect), who stalks and kills girls with his muscle car. Every movie Tarantino's ever made has been an homage to glorious cult trash, and this combo slasher/race flick is jammed with references to its ancestors, particularly the great 1971 "Vanishing Point."

So: Get lulled into alpha waves by the smack-talk and vintage pop music, then get jerked out of it by an epic road race of death with Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell flopping around on the hood of a car that Mike's ramming with his.

Both segments are uneven in terms of structure and character. But that's less a criticism of Tarantino and Rodriguez than an acknowledgement that they've keenly replicated their beloved, inept sleaze. For instance, the abrupt ending of "Death Proof" will make you howl. But unlike the source material, the laughs here are intentional.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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