The connections between Quentin Tarantino and Apichatpong Weerasethakul are not, it must be said, extensive. Still, it’s striking that, like Apichatpong’s ‘Syndromes and a Century’ (also out this week), ‘Death Proof’ offers two incarnations of the same story and, in its own way, is concerned with seeking meaning through iteration and the practice of cinema. Still, we aren’t likely to see Apichatpong making a film about a former stuntman who gets his kicks by offing honeys with a weaponised sedan any time soon.
The first time we meet Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike, he cosies up to a group of chicks in a Texas roadhouse; next time round, he takes on another three in Tennessee. Despite its double structure, ‘Death Proof’ is something of a spare limb, made as part of ‘Grindhouse’, the high-concept retro genre pastiche double bill that tanked at the US box office. It was always going to be an action-heavy, plot-light exercise in fan-boy indulgence, an essentially masturbatory fantasy project (almost literally when it comes to foot fetishisation), and being extended by 25 minutes only serves to exacerbate these tendencies.
So, yes, the characters talk in Tarantino-speak-squared, the violence is hand-rubbingly sadistic and the whole thing is swathed in several layers of quotation marks. But smart attention is also paid to some interesting tensions between old and new in areas as varied as pop culture, photography, effects work, automobile construction, telephony and audio recording technology. And if you have an inner (or outer) fan-boy to indulge, the climactic extended car chase is a bona fide old-school tour de force.