Grindhouse, much like everything else Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have been doing, is more an homage film than an exploitation flick. The heavy double feature is filled with aspects reminiscent of the late '70s grindhouse pictures, movies filled with bullets and broads, but also hyper-stylized garnishes. Nostalgia grips the film's directors, and it's apparent with Grindhouse that there can be too much of a exploitative, if reverent, thing.
Rodriguez has top billing in the movie, directing the first part, Planet Terror. The film, which stars little-knowns Freddy Rodriguez (no relation) and Rose McGowan, is concerned with a military experiment gone wrong, resulting in the mutantification of almost everyone in a small Texas town. The film is pretty flimsy in most respects, and that's excuseable to some extent; Rodriguez isn't setting out to make anything more than a big splashy zombie film. Still, the pacing of the film is jerky, and it leaves the viewers feeling queasy, at times and not so much because of the gobs of gore. It seems that in embracing the shoddy production values of the exploitation era, Rodriguez has missed the mark with his overly reverant Planet Terror.
Tarantino as much as Rodriguez stays true to his art. Even while paying homage, however, Tarantino is a much more accomplished director already, and his film, Death Proof, follows suit.
The film is wrapped around two quartets of women, one of which is vehicularly murdered by an out of work stuntman, brilliantly played by Kurt Russell. The second group, when not speaking exquiste chunks of dialoge, finish the short film with their own vehicular justice after meeting up with Russell's "Stuntman Mike." Tarantino's film is not only refined in his particularly clear style (dialouge is pronounced with perfect diction, and shots in the daytime are even crisper) but the film is simply more enjoyable. More happens in less time, characters are actually developed, and the film ends with one of the greatest sucker punches (or kicks, as it were) in the history of film.
Tarantino may have triumphed once again with Death Proof, but credit should still be given to Rodriguez; his film is more in tune with the films' mission statement when all things are considered. Both films have something to offer to someone looking for pure escapist enjoyment, and combined, they have the power to remind audiences why double-features were so great back in the era of working Grindhouses. Variety, stacking two wildly differnet films together, can sometimes bring about an experience more pleasureable than viewing them individually. In the end, whether or not this is the case with Grindhouse, can be left up to debate.