Before we join the rush of religious-press reviewers who are condemning Grindhouse outright, let’s understand what it is first.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have a particular nostalgia for films like those they watched growing up. Many of those films were cheap, exploitative, spectacularly bad, and filled with gratuitous violence, graphic nudity, and characters who flaunted their way with profanity. They were populated with strippers, zombies, monsters, and muscular heroes who won the day with heavy artillery. They were, in short, puerile and ludicrous. This genre of low-budget, disposable entertainment came to be known as “Grindhouse.”

It was almost inevitable that the two would end up paying homage to the films they enjoyed in their adolescent years. (In fact, they’ve done so before, to lesser degrees, in previous releases like Rodriguez’s Desperado, Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and their collaboration From Dusk Till Dawn.)

But their new double-feature, Grindhouse, isn’t exactly a “Grindhouse” movie. It’s more like a spoof, a satire, a severely exaggerated version of something that was exaggerated to begin with. Thus, they take something subversive, and subvert it. They blow its gratuitous content so far out of proportion, it can’t possibly be taken seriously.

Does that neutralize it’s exploitative and excessive content? Not entirely. But it is much easier to laugh at what we’re seeing, because the filmmakers are clearly laughing.

This isn’t the kind of thing I would go see by myself. But I’ve enjoyed some of the films made by Rodriguez and Tarantino before, so I wanted to see if this would be a case of brilliance coming in the disguise of trash. I saw the movie with two of my best friends from college, and it reminded us of going together to the old, run-down, sticky-floor UA Cinema 150 in downtown Seattle back in our college days.

It was a nostalgic trip in several ways… including just how hard we laughed at the ridiculously over-the-top Rodriguez film. But it was also nostalgic in the way that Tarantino’s installment let us down. I can’t recommend Grindhouse. While I was powerfully impressed by the meticulously crafted style and some of the enthusiastic performances, the excessive, lurid content is still troubling and inappropriate, even though it’s exaggerated for laughs.

Peter Suderman‘s National Review article: “For lovers of demented and shocking trash cinema, there are plenty of gruesome goodies to be found in Grindhouse, but Rodriguez and Tarantino dole out more abuse than their concept, or their audience, should have to endure.” Elsewhere, Suderman blogs, “I really think I’m the only person that prefers From Dusk Till Dawn to Grindhouse …. Maybe it’s because FDTD does a better job of being actually wildly bad rather than awkwardly imitating wildly bad.”

Jeff Walls (Past the Popcorn) “I’ve never encountered the true Grindhouse experience, but I now have a full understanding of what I am missing, and I am probably better for it — missing it, that is.”

Steven Isaac (Plugged In) asks, “What’s the difference between the grindhouse flicks of yesteryear and the Grindhouse double-feature of today? I’ve never been to a grindhouse nor seen any of the films once shown there—so I won’t and can’t compare them side by side. But I can and will say that those films were shown on the wrong side of the tracks in “seedy, sticky” locales that, according to Tarantino, ‘attracted sleepy bums and outlaws on the lam.’ This one is playing at the mall. That alone says a lot about where we’ve been, where we are, and where the big screen is taking us in the future.”

Here’s the GreenCine Daily coverage, and here’s even more, which is as gratuitous with its interesting links as Grindhouse is with its lunacy.

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