Some movies are bad. Some are so bad that they're good. Some are so good because they're supposed to be so bad. Death Proof fits into the last category. It certainly isn't a good movie by any means, but it's not really trying to be a good movie. After all, Quentin Tarantino was patterning it after B movies from the 1970s, and the storyline is nothing short of absurd. This isn't to say that there aren't good things about the film (the action scenes, much of the dialogue, the acting, etcetera) but overall it's pretty safe to say that this is Tarantino's worst film. With that said, it's still awesome.
The story goes as follows. A bunch of girls hang out. They meet a guy named Stuntman Mike who has a "death proof" stunt car. Stuntman Mike crashes into their car and kills them. A new group of girls hang out. These girls are in the movies, and two of them are stuntwomen. (In other words, the kind of women you don't want to mess with!) Stuntman Mike sees them doing a dangerous stunt where one of them rides on the hood of a car. Stuntman Mike tries to make them crash. The girls go after Stuntman Mike. They beat the crap out of him, and presumably kill him.
I'm obviously too young to have been around for the 1970s "Grindhouse" cinema. However, my friends and I did have a tradition called "Stupid Movie Night" where no doubt we wound up seeing some movies from that era. I suppose much of what we saw was more along the line of straight-to-VHS movies, but it's safe to say that these kinds of movies are cousins. For the most part, the films were crap and oftentimes their only merits were ridiculous action scenes and gratuitous nudity. Every now and then, we'd stumble on something that was in a different category like Evil Dead 2. Sure, that's a ridiculously stupid film as well, but everything that's dumb about it is intentionally dumb. Death Proof reminds me of that. It's not bad because it's in the hands of somebody who's incompetent, it's bad because a competent person was trying to make a B-movie.
My favorite part about this film is the ridiculousness of its premise. Here we have an obvious misogynist who stalks women and gets to know them before he ultimately kills them. However, unlike a real serial killer, he doesn't strangle, stab, bludgeon them. He uses his stunt car to crash into their car. Oh, there is the one girl who he takes for a ride, and since she's in the spot where a camera is supposed to go, she's not exactly protected like he is.
Of course, this is hardly enough to get me on board. What really works is how well Kurt Russell sells this character. He's a downright charming guy when he's talking to the girls in the bar. He also really sells his "turn" when he makes it clear to the poor girl in the passenger seat that his intentions are malevolent. Still, what really makes Kurt Russel awesome is toward the end of the film where the new batch of girls get the upper hand on him. He gets shot in the arm, and after he drives away to safety and pours whiskey on his wound, he's crying. Crying! Brilliant! It's even better when they make him crash his car and pull him out to start beating him up. When they go to pull him out, he implores them to be careful with his broken arm. Damn, but that cracks me up every time I watch it.
Obviously, this movie is not for everybody. In many ways, it's not dumb enough for those who only like lowbrow cinema, as there are long periods of nothing but dialogue. Still, it's Tarantino's dialogue, so somebody who appreciates that sort of a thing would like it. (To be fair, the dialogue with the second group of girls never picks up the same momentum as it did with the first group.)
And I should also mention that I have said before that if my friend JT was a serial killer, his M.O. would be just like Stuntman Mike's - especially the crying part. He doesn't deny that I'm right. In fact, he just nods his head and agrees that I'm right.