by Ed Symkus & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he pleasures are many in this Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez paean to the sleazy, violent, exploitative American films of the 1960s and '70s that could be seen at small downtown theaters and suburban drive-ins: zombie movies, biker movies, drug movies, sex movies (Russ Meyer gets a shout-out in the end credits here). There are problems, too, but the pleasures are much more numerous.
Not only is this two, two, two movies in one -- the 192-minute package also features four fake trailers. (Rumor already has it that response to the outrageous trailer for Machete will likely lead to its being made into a full-length film.) They're directed, in chronological order, by Rodriguez, Eli Roth (Hostel), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), and Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects). That last one features a wild cameo by Nic Cage as Fu Manchu.
But it's the two ferocious 85-minute films that'll either grab you or gross you out. And you'll know about 10 minutes into the first one, Rodriguez's killer zombie film Planet Terror, if you should stay or go next door to that ice skating comedy.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & eaturing Freddy Rodriguez (recently seen in Bobby) as a "man with a past" and Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer who wants more out of life, the film is sort of about some hush-hush government-run scientific experiments that have gone horribly awry -- most likely under the supervision of bad guy Bruce Willis -- and have resulted in the zombification of the countryside. It's very funny and very gory, and it's all played with straight faces, especially those of the supporting cast (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton as doctors, Michael Biehn as a sheriff). But it's hard to take your eyes off the beautiful McGowan as Cherry, a woman who gives new meaning to the term "hot legs." Well, at least one of them is hot.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & cGowan, dark hair replaced by blonde, is also featured in the second segment, Tarantino's high-speed chase film Death Proof, but this one belongs to friendly-sinister Stuntman Mike (played in high camp, over-the-top mode by Kurt Russell). While the first film boasts a steady, ever-building energy, this one suffers a bit from Tarantino's habit of writing too many words, then insisting that his actors speak every one of them. The story seems to be about a group of young women simply out to have fun. Then, after stopping for some horrific and mean-spirited mayhem courtesy of Stuntman Mike, it turns into something about a different group of young women with the same idea in mind. Too much talk enters the fray (most of it within the confines of a car, just like Tarantino's car segment in Sin City). Then, upon the return of Stuntman Mike, the action is ramped up to unbelievably dizzying heights, featuring the astounding stunt work of New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell playing tough-as-nails Zoe.
Be warned: Some of the film is scratchy (on purpose), there are some reels missing (a goofy joke), and plot holes are gaping (just as in the films being celebrated). But this thing is a no-holds-barred ball. I can't wait to see Machete.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
Starring Freddie Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell