*A guest review today, from Nick Schager, of Slant Magazine
In a pop culture landscape as hungrily cannibalistic as today's, cinematic nostalgia and homage has lost much of its once enticing luster. The indulgent fun of referencing and rehashing the past has worn so thin that even VH1's gaggle of third-rate Best Week Ever and I Love the [Insert Decade] talking heads seem barely capable of mustering enthusiasm for the latest derogatory smack-down on their own industry brethren. The cultural infatuation with retro navel-gazing is now pronounced to the point that it brings into question whether the practice hasn't seriously debilitated our collective imaginations, which have become so narrowly focused that it sometimes feels as if half of our mainstream entertainment takes as its primary influence mainstream entertainment. It's an inward circle that -- at least in the cinematic arena -- proceeds with no clear direction and even less of a meaningful destination, with deconstruction often taking a back seat to regurgitation as countless filmmakers prove themselves stunted adolescents whose worldview is primarily confined to the movies and TV shows of their youths.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that my skepticism was high for Grindhouse, the nasty, sleazy love child of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino that aims to recreate -- with every celluloid scratch, Missing Reel title card, cheesy theater advertisement and titillating coming attraction -- the experience of a '70s B-movie twin bill. A dutiful and reverential homage to their beloved exploitation flicks, Rodriguez and Tarantino's two-headed beast delivers separate full-length films, Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof, sandwiched together by hilarious phony trailers from Rob Zombie ("Werewolf Women of the SS"), Edgar Wright ("Don't!"), Eli Roth ("Thanksgiving") and Rodriguez himself ("Machete") that nearly outshine the main events. Theirs is a joint project of exacting replication, though the directors' intentions and execution are -- surprisingly, given the "All for one, and one for schlock" unity that infuses the endeavor -- far more divergent than one might expect. Rodriguez goes for full-blooded faithfulness, Tarantino goes for genre analysis and reconfiguration, and the results are, ultimately, about as coherent and fulfilling as a typical grindhouse double-feature.