Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn: Revisiting Rodriguez's revenants 15 years on

The mayhem actually starts before we catch up with the Gecko brothers. That Richie (Quentin Tarantino) busted Seth (George Clooney) out of jail, that the pair robbed a bank, took a hostage and left a sizable body count in their wake is, rather remarkably, all back story, preceding the opening scenes depicting the infiltration of a roadside liquor retailer that results in more pointless carnage, including the roasting alive of the proprietor (very nicely played by a young John Hawkes). Richie is shot through the hand during the firefight; the bullet leaves a hole the size of a carrot stick—some sort of perverse stigmata for this sadist, serial rapist and compulsive murderer—which he bandages with duct tape. To think, all Richie wanted was a road map.

Richie and Seth eventually manage to get south of the border by smuggling themselves in an RV driven by a pastor and widower (Harvey Keitel) weathering a crisis of faith by taking a road trip with his kids (one of whom is Juliette Lewis, who’s casting in this sort of thing was pretty much de rigueur back in 1996). The whole gang winds up in a biker bar called the Titty Twister (though I prefer the name given in the DVD’s Spanish subtitles: “Fiesta de tetas”) where Selma Hayek performs a dance in a bikini with a big snake that’s almost stupefying in its hotness and everyone turns out to be Aztec vampires, a breed of revenant that’s unusually easy to dismember and impale. It takes an hour to get to the vampire stuff, but from then on, rest assured, it’s a solid 40 minutes of bang-bang, crunch, tear, stab, shred, splatter.

The movie was directed with much enthusiasm and little flair by Robert Rodriguez, but its script came courtesy of the young Tarantino, who seems to have been galvanized by the genre fusion and the opportunity to toss elements of everything from Peckinpah to Graham Greene into the blender. There’s not a lot of the sort of verbal fireworks we find in top-grade Tarantino, the ostensible portrait of Mexico could just as easily be one of West Texas, and some of the special effects are kind of lame and superfluous, but the superb cast and relentless cartoony action sequences ensure that the movie’s entertainment value remains reasonably high.

No comments: