What better way to celebrate Halloween than by watching the main Robert Rodriguez film I haven’t yet seen? OK! In this heist/kidnapping/action/vampire movie penned by Rodriguez pal Quentin Tarantino, a lot of unlikely things happen. I’m not talking about the whole “hundreds of vampire creatures attacking a bar” thing. I’m talking about a bullet going through a hand and using duct tape to bind it, sexy exotic dancer Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) allowing sleazeball Richard Gecko (Tarantino) to suck beer off her foot (hmm I wonder what fetishist wrote this screenplay?), and oh yeah: George Clooney and that aforementioned sleazeball are cast as brothers?! In what universe could the same person have spawned such a smooth-voiced, classically handsome gentleman along with a greasy, pinched-faced, perpetually whining barely-fully-formed human? Ugh. Rodriguez, please, stop letting your friendship with this asshole get in the way of your movies. You are so much better than that.
Anyway, From Dusk Till Dawn starts out as a straight up action movie with brothers Richard and Seth Gecko on the run with a bunch of stolen money, who ultimately take the Fuller family (Harvey Keitel, Ernest Liu, and Juliette Lewis) and their camper hostage until they can make it to Mexico to hand over their spoils to their boss. We realize early on that Richard is prone to angry outbreaks and needless murders, and is generally unstable. Seth is more sensible and seeks to kill as few people as possible, yet still remains loyal to his brother. They make it to the bar where the meeting will take place, after which the Fullers will be free to go. After waiting a little while they realize that the dancers and bar employees are all vampires who feast on customers when night falls. So the Fullers and the Geckos team up with bar patrons Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson) to stave off the growing tide of hungry creatures.
There are great action and gore sequences, as in any Rodriguez film. Clooney feels out of place in reference to other roles I’ve seen him in, but he does a good job with the part. Fun cameo appearances besides Salma Hayek include Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and John Hawkes. The screenplay is tell-tale Tarantino but with less pop-culture references and long conversations, due to the quick-moving plot. I like that halfway through it was suddenly a vampire movie, forcing kidnapped and kidnappers to work together and forget all about the initial central plot points- the money and the escape from cops. The improvised weaponry was also a fun A-Team-like time. But it didn’t all fit together as well as I’d hoped. Maybe things happened too fast, or he was trying to put too much into one movie, or it wasn’t scary enough, but something about the whole thing just didn’t feel right. I have loved almost every other Rodriguez flick I’ve seen (even Spy Kids) but this didn’t seem to live up to their smart, well-paced, action-packed but still heartfelt standards. It was still enjoyable but it’s not the kind of movie I feel like rewatching. If you’re a Rodriguez or Tarantino fan it’s still a must-see, but could probably be passed otherwise. I’d recommend watching it with a group of people who are prone to commentating, as it lends itself well to Tarantino jokes and general “Question Mark?” moments.