July 18th, 2012

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Tarantino/Rodriguez: From Dusk Til Dawn

I often describe a movie as feeling disjointed. The first half seems to be headed in one direction, and then the second half goes somewhere else entirely, hardly giving the beginning a second thought. It happens a lot with superhero origin movies. Or there's The Crying Game which almost feels like 3 different movies. But no movie I can think of at the moment has such an abrupt shift like From Dusk Til Dawn. This Tarantino/Rodriguez collaboration (more on that shortly) starts off much like any other pulpy pic penned per Quentin. You've got some criminals of questionable character trying to salvage a job that didnt entirely go to plan. They take a few hostages and try to get across the border to meet up with an accomplice. Business as usual for Tarantino. But then they find the bar they're meeting at is overrun by vampires. And the whole second half is a blood and bite-fest. Say what? How did we get there exactly?

I was certainly confused when I first saw it. By the time I got around to it, I was already a Tarantino fan, though I dont think I was too familiar with Rodriguez. But all I really knew about the movie was vampires. And that's really all I needed to know. There I am, watching the movie, and we get to around an hour, and not a single fang. On one hand, there was confusion and some feeling upset. On the other, I really did start getting into the criminal/hostage story. Just when I forget I was vamp-less, oh hey rug, why are you not under me anymore? Set up, completely out the window, along with some victims possibly as we get an undead gore-fest.

This was such an entirely effective collaboration for Tarantino and Rodriguez, I'm really surprised this was the only movie they shared with this approach. QT wrote the screenplay and had a lead role opposite George Clooney. RR directed. So we had QT's words with RR's visual, in other words, we had each of their strengths to put together one \m/ kick ass movie. And you see both sets of fingerprints all over the film:
-Rodriguez' hand wounds
-Tarantino's foot fetish
-Rodriguez' codpiece gun
-Tarantino's trunk shot
Both boys brought along some friends, though it looks like Rodriguez brought more with Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, and Cheech Marin among others, vs Tarantino's Harvey Keitel and Juliett Lewis.

The film did spawn a few sequels, but seeing as how this duo wasn't actually invovled in them, I never bothered. Admittedly, this is not the best vampire film out there, by a long shot. The special effects are, well, special. it doesnt really add anything to the vamp mythology. The plot at the vampire segment of the movie is pretty basic: survive. But all of that just adds to the grindhouse-y fun. I do love the thought of QT and RR doing vampires, especially since this was '95, waaaaay before vampires were cool. But the MVP that really steals the show is George Clooney. This is right as his ER gig was kicking into gear. We hadn't quite seen this bad side of him. Think Danny Ocean if the heist involved guns. Wish his career would have led to much more collaboration with this team, but I dont think anyone's gonna complain about the path he's taken.