we recently netflix’d two movies in a row with “-proof” in their title: Quentin Tarrantino‘s Death Proof (one half of his and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse) and Adam Sandler‘s Bulletproof. A brief review of these stinkbombs…
the only thing this flick proves is that Quentin Tarrantino is working on his talentless hack title. seriously. i was a Tarrantino fan. i was even ready to forgive Kill Bill on merits of artistic integrity. (the truth: there really wasn’t any — he sold out on that one when he cowtowed to the studios by splitting the movie in half rather than releasing it as the 4 hour mammoth he had originally intended.) it was cheesy, but it was supposed to be cheesy, so that made it okay, right? and anyway, resevoir dogs is really frickin’ good.
the fact is that everything that has been released subsequently since that first seminal, mind blowing film has been not-as-good — pulp fiction included. pulp fiction is a damn fine film, but it’s still not as edgy, not as intense, and the characters not as memorable or archetypal as resevior dogs. plus, there’s no steve buscemi.
death proof follows kill bill in what can only be described as Tarrantino’s worship of other people’s shit, henceforth described in this blog as WOPS. (i’m italian, i can redefine the word wop if i want.) the problem with Tarrantino’s WOPS is that he’s not even WOP(s)ing anything good. it’s crap that he’s trying to remake. in kill bill it was really bad, old kung fu movies, which, you know, are still kind of badass. movies like the ones from which the rap group Wu-Tang Clan lifted their name. death proof seems to be the result of the following line of really bad thinking: “gee, i really like that old movie Vanishing Point. but there was already a remake made in ’97. i’ll just make a new movie that wants to be like vanishing point and talks about how great vanishing point is and keeps referencing vanishing point and pretty much try to remake the really bad 70s car chase movie archetype because vanishing point is so cool. and it’ll make everyone who hasn’t seen vanishing point feel so stupid that they’ll want to watch vanishing point.”
quick death proof plot synopsis: there’s a mass murdering badass stuntman who goes around ramming his dodge challenger into people because he thinks it’s cool. his name is stuntman mike. he has absolutely no established motivation other than how incredibly bad ass he is and that he’s got a really big scar. oh, it’s hinted at that “it must be a sex thing,” since he only hunts women, but that’s really as far as the character probing goes. we follow one group of girls, switch to another, single, girl, watch stuntman mike give her a ride (which means throw her in his death trap passenger seat and drive really erratically) and when he’s through with her, hunt down the previous trio of girls. when he’s done with them, we jump to him doing it all over again in another state. if you didn’t follow that, don’t worry, it wasn’t really important anyway.
somehow, all these girls are always on a girls-weekend-out trip to some remote location, and they’re invariably talking about making out with guys and distinctly not having sex with them with a sort of 80s movie high school girl kind of prudeness, even though these girls, or women actually, are not in high school, and are definitely not established as prudes. (one death proof low point: the 5 minute lap dance interlude on aforementioned, scarred, lunatic, badass stuntman. i wish i could say it was the only low point.) still, it’s the not having that’s the point of the conversations. this second group of girls, however, is equipped with two in-house, badass stuntwomen of their own, and wacky car chase hijinks ensue.
i will say that the stunts in this movie are impressive — probably the only impressive thing in this movie. most notably, the two stuntwomen decided to “do something really stupid” and take out none other than a “vanishing point dodge challenger” for an incredibly high speed test drive for the purpose of having the crazy aussie stuntwoman to strap herself to the hood, which they call “ship’s mast.” it is of course then when they are attacked by stuntman mike, and the overly drawn out car chase that follows is arresting in that it’s obviously actually done at high speeds with an actual human strapped to the hood of an actual car while another actual car slams into it a whole bunch of times.
the main problem here is that the thing that Quentin Tarrantino does best (aside from hiring washed-up actors and recharging their careers — okay, aside from hiring John Travolta, and recharging his career…) is interesting and, for the most part, believable characters and great dialogue. which are pretty much the two main things lacking from this movie. i realize the intent was the replicate bad 70s movies, but, well, maybe someone ought to rethink their objective. i won’t give away the (abrupt) ending, i’m just going to say that when this movie ends, you’ll wish someone punched you in the mouth…for renting this movie. it’s like getting to the end of “the clown joke.” (a notorious, often several-hour-long joke from my high school past which ended in the anticlimactic punchline: “f— you, clown. f— you.”)
In the same year that Happy Gilmore came out, and a couple years before The Wedding Singer, Adam Sandler costarred alongside Damon Wayans in Bulletproof. the quick synopsis is something like: archie moses (sandler) is a con-man whose partner turns out to be an undercover cop (wayans). when the bust his pal sets up for archie’s drug dealing, crime lord boss (james caan) goes south, wacky hijinks ensue. alternately, you could do an even shorter synopsis: midnight run with adam sandler and damon wayans. it’s billed as a buddy movie/comedy and the short synopsis and wayans/sandler combination might make you think that this is going to be a typical hilarious adam sandler movie.
you’d be wrong.
in actuality, it’s not really all that funny. the former in living color star plays the straight-man in this and the movie is more of a hard-ass, urban, action shooter. that randomly has adam sandler walking around in it. his presence often seems so grossly out-of-place, you find yourself wondering how did adam sandler wind up in this black movie? unfortunately, i took the bait, thinking this would be a standard happy madison production (actually, as it turns out, happy madison didn’t get started for another 3 years, kicking off with a film starring his buddy, rob schnieder, in deuce bigalo: male gigolo) and needing more sandler in my life. instead, bulletproof is a movie with adam sandler in it, rather than an adam sandler movie. this becomes an important distinction. much like if you rented punch drunk love expecting 50 first dates.
adam’s incongruous screaming makes a couple of appearances. his crude sex jokes make more. that’s about the extent to which his presence affects this movie one way or another — he could just as easily have been swapped with, oh, john malkovitch, for example, for all the difference it would make on the overall feel of the film. bulletproof has several failings: it’s not funny enough to be a raucous comedy — which you sort of expect of adam sandler (although maybe in 1996 you didn’t); it’s not buddy enough for a real buddy movie — sandler and wayans’ on-screen chemistry works in a way that’s really not; the script is very poorly written — it’s predictable and the dialogue is atrocious; and the gunplay is clumsy — the shots of the bad guys getting shot are stupidly grotesque and sandler looks awkward holding a gun. it’s pretty much like it was written to appeal to 13 year old boys, who would likely get the most enjoyment out of the scene in which there’s a major gunfight at the motel sandler and wayans are staying in the middle of nowhere while the sounds of a mexican porn play loudly in the background — for most of us, that’s just not all that amusing.
then again, looking at the other stuff the writer, Joe Gayton, has done, bulletproof is the first, and last, attempt at comedy he’s written. so, presumably he realized that he can’t write a joke and decided not to threaten us again with his horrible attempts at humor, and, instead, sticks to the familiar territory of bad action plots, where dialogue and complex characters really don’t matter nearly as much as explosions and shooting.