Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Juliette Lewis
You have to hand it to Rodriguez. He is a competent and talented individual and this was only his third film after El Mariachi, Desperado and a handful of TV episodes. I’ve always been a fan of his (you should be aware of my views on El Mariachi by now) and he has only gotten better over the years in my opinion. Along with del Toro he is one one of my favourite currently working directors.
In this homage to the b-movies of the Seventies we are introduced to Seth and Richard Gecko (Clooney and Tarantino respectively) as two hardened criminals making their way across the desert towards Mexico. Along their path they meet the appropriately named Jacob (downplayed by Keitel) and his children (Lewis and Liu in his first role). They are off on a holiday after Jacob has lost his faith and quit his ministry after the death of his wife.
The Gecko brothers then force Jacob to take them across the Mexican border where they will be released. From here they end up at the run-down Titty Twister bar, a place for low-life scum, bikers and undesirables. From this point onward all hell breaks loose. The first half of the film is more of a crime thriller and study of the Gecko brothers, where the second half is just downright schlock horror.
A whole host of interesting characters make an appearance from Kelly Preston’s newscaster to Salma Hayek’s exotic stripper at the bar. Old vets such as Cheech Marin and John Saxon make appearances, along with effects genius Tom Savini (who is brilliant here), as well as Rodriguez favourite Danny Trejo. While Tarantino co-wrote much of the script, I personally was glad he didn’t make it much past the half-way mark. I think he is massively overrated as a director (and steals far too many ideas from other films) and as an actor he leaves a lot to be desired.
And this is where I think the film gets better without his presence. Yes it works at the beginning, but really it could have been anyone. Tarantino helped to bring Grindhouse back, but it never really went away, and I wish a lot of his fans would actually watch the films where he got all of his ideas from. Made with a budget of less than twenty million this a rollicking good ride and a great homage to films gone by. Pity the sequels can’t say the same, though at least Rodriguez was involved with the TV series. A solid film.
The Sage’s Rating: 7/10