The main thing I took away from Death Proof besides the kickin’ soundtrack was a nice dosage of recommendations. Zoe and Kim talk about awesome car movies they watched as kids and I wanted to be cool like them. The car they drive is from Vanishing Point, a minimalist chase movie that pits quiet driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) against a lot of cops trying to stop his one-man road race from Colorado to San Francisco. An enthusiastic blind radio dj (Cleavon Little) tries to aid the driver’s quest with helpful hints over the air. There’s not much more to it than that.
With sparse but strong characterization and a lot of awesome stunt driving, Vanishing Point is a pretty solid road movie. I think Kowalski is a little bit too “cool” to be a compelling lead, but Cleavon Little as Super Soul manages to steal the show in a supporting role. His ebullience and chatty character fills in the blanks for Kowalski’s stone-faced silence, and it’s a good contrast. Besides his performance, my favorite element of the film is the driving, man! There are some very cool, crazy moments with this white Dodge Challenger as well as some nail-biting ones. Well-shot, too. But nobody rides on its roof like in Death Proof. And there aren’t any cool ladies to speak of. Oh well. I guess Tarantino can improve on some things.
Like many films of its ilk, the narrative is pretty light and everything settles into a sort of masculine quietude as shots of Western America are punctuated with the roar of an engine. This is all well and good, but not especially my thing as I’ve said in the past. There are attempts to flesh out Kowalski’s backstory but his motivations remain unclear, and eventually he’s just driving out of stubbornness while those following at home lift him up on a pedestal of admirable manly rebellion. Eh. I could see how his act could resonate strongly with certain people, especially when the film was made, but it didn’t have a particularly strong effect on me. I liked to watch him drive around, but could have done with more of an actual narrative. The ending is fantastic, though.
Pair This Movie With: Aw man well obviously a dude in a car being chased by cops makes me think of Smokey and the Bandit!