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Death Proof, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell)

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Film: Death Proof (2007)
Deceased Character: Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell)
Archetype: Baddy (Major)
Killed by: Abernathy (Rosario Dawson)
Killed with: Foot

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Written by Old Bluffer 28th Feb 2009

Fourteen months after successfully murdering five women with his Death Proof car, Stuntman Mike now drives a 1969 Dodge Charger and is looking for new victims.

He finds them in the form of three female actresses Lee, Abernathy and Kim.

They are parked in a stylish yellow and black muscle car, with Abernathy's foot stuck out of one of the windows (Tarantino's foot fetish is in overdrive throughout this film).  Mike sleazily caresses the foot from outside, whilst pretending to pick up his keys, and we know that his own kinky style of stalking is not too far away.

However, this group of ladies are soon shown to be a different breed to his previous victims, and this is highlighted when they meet up with another friend, Zoe.  It turns out that Zoe and Kim are both stunt women, and are pretty tough cookies. Kim carries a firearm, and Zoe seems to be something of an adrenaline junkie. We're also told that she has "catlike reflexes".  In short then, this quartet might just be able to deal with a psychopathic stuntman killer.

Before the showdown, Zoe coerces the others to help her track down her dream car that she researched all the way from New Zealand.  It's a white 1970 Dodge Challenger, which is the cult car from Vanishing Point, and she absolutely needs to drive it.  The plan is to approach the owner, and con him into allowing them to test drive it (she has no intention of buying). 

The plan seems straightforward enough, but then Zoe confides in Kim that she wants to do more than just drive it - she wants to play "Ship's Mast".  Evidently her and Kim have played this before, with "dramatic" results, and Kim angrily tells her there is no way she's doing it again.  Zoe gets her to relent though, with the promise of free "back cracks" and foot massages.

Leaving Lee with the car's owner, Abernathy sits in the back, Kim gets behind the wheel and Zoe sits up front.  Out of sight of the owner, Zoe takes two belts, ties them to the roof and climbs onto the roof while Kim drives at speed.  "Ship's Mast" it seems, involves sliding down from the roof onto the hood, with just the two belts to hang onto.  All of this is great fun of course, and there is much excited screaming and laughter.

Stuntman Mike is lurking in the area though, and once he spots the distinctive muscle car, and sees a girl tied to the bonnet, there is no way he is going to be able to resist chasing after them.

Once he catches up he isn't subtle, the girls in the car spot him coming up behind them fast - too fast. And there is nothing they can do when he shunts them in the rear. Zoe is slammed by the impact, and immediately realises she is in trouble.

Mike then proceeds to absolutely batter their borrowed car, slamming into them from the sides and terrorising poor Zoe, who increasingly looks as if she must lose her grip soon and be pulled underneath the wheels.

[At this point, most audience-members will be wondering why Kim doesn't just slow down and let Zoe escape.  This is a rather valid point, but is probably best explained by Death Proof being very much an homage to the grindhouse genre of movies, where sensible actions aren't really in keeping with the plot.  You could also argue that she is a stunt driver as well, and may feel that Zoe's best chance is for her to try and outdrive the strange madman that is ramming them]

Inevitably, Stuntman Mike manages to shunt the girls off the road, and Zoe disappears from view.

The exhilirating chase has given Mike more giggles than he's had in fourteen months, and assuming that Zoe has been killed (they were going at a serious rate of knots when they spun out) he appears to be willing to let his main victims live a while longer before he kills them.

"Ladies! That was fun! Well, adios..."

Kim is not having any of that though, and, drawing her gun, she shoots him in the arm (she was probably trying to kill him but he was a fair distance away for a handgun).

This completely shocks Mike - he is in no way used to his prey attacking him, and, bleeding copiously he drives off in pain and terror.

Fearful for their friend, the girls gaze anxiously towards the scrubland that Zoe was hurled into, and the short New Zealander suddenly springs up like a meerkat, excitedly saying "I'm okay!"  It seems that the earlier comments about her amazing reflexes were correct!

The three girls are now absolutely pumped with adrenaline, and unanimously decide to track down Mike and exact bloody vengeance. Before they go, Zoe grabs an iron bar by the roadside, and wields it "Warriors style, hanging onto the body of the car (you'd think she'd have learned to sit in the passenger seat by now!).

Meanwhile Mike is feeling rather sorry for himself.  He's pulled over to swig some whiskey and tend to his arm, and he's also unfastened his safety harness.

Kim isn't one to waste an opportunity and she slams straight into the back of his stationary vehicle, smashing him forwards into the windscreen. Zoe leaps to the ground as this happens and gleefully smashes her pipe through the side window and into his head.  She gets in a good few solid whacks before he manages to get his car in gear and flee again.

The girls can now well and truly smell blood, and launch into pursuit mode, with Kim showing she is just as capable of emulating his earlier shunting moves.

By this point Mike has well and truly lost control, and is hysterically crying like a girl. He's never been in a situation like this before, and really doesn't seem to be enjoying it.

As the cars draw level. he tries appealing to their merciful side and shouts that he's sorry to them.

"I didn't mean to, I was just playing around!"

The driving is still at high speed though, and Kim makes a mistake, losing her quarry by accidently taking a high dirt road.

Mike looks round to see that he's lost them and finally seems to regain some of his old cockiness. It was a bit hairy there for a while, but once he's healed up the game can begin anew and the girls' deaths will be all the sweeter for today's setback.

Fortune smiles on Kim though, and the dirt track slopes down to rejoin the main road. With pure murder on her mind she aims for a full side-on collision and the impact smashes Mike's car to a crunching standstill, snapping his arm in the process.

The girls pile out to find Mike wailing like a baby, begging them to be careful of his arm.

They have no sympathy and grab the wounded arm with sickening force to pull him to his feet.

They then all proceed to lay into him with some proper, jaw cracking punches. Nothing too hard to knock him out, but more than enough to spin him around so all of them get a good and satisfying opportunity to get their licks in.

If it weren't for the previous murders we've seen Mike commit we might even be feeling a bit sorry for him by this point, as the three girls have really worked him over in a way that would make professional mafiosa sit up and take notes.

Zoe finally gets bored with fisticuffs and drops him with a spinning roundhouse kick. While he lies in anguish on the ground, Abernathy approaches him and ends his life with a beautifully executed axe kick to the face.

Old Bluffer's Thoughts

This is a really unusual film by modern standards and breaks many conventions that we're used to. For example, there is a huge amount of dialogue and backstory for the first set of girls, and yet they all get killed with no resolution to any of their plot strands.  The cops that identify Stuntman Mike as a killer and vow that he won't get away with it again in their state also fail to make an appearance at the end of the film, and we never find out what happened when the battered Dodge Challenger is returned after its "test drive".

The point being, the younger modern audience is likely to feel cheated that lots of things aren't conveniently wrapped up, and may also be bored senseless by interminable conversations that don't affect the plot in any way.

However, if you can watch the film either in an ironic frame of mind, or are a fan of either Tarantino or the grindhouse genre of exploitation films then you are going to have a whole lot of fun.

The film is flawed - the dialogue is undeniably too long and doesn't have enough Tarantino brilliance to get away with it. The female characters are also not different enough, they all share the same speech patterns so it's blindingly obvious that he didn't bother finding each one their own "voice".

These small criticisms aside though, this is an extremely fun movie, and is a visual treat despite the deliberately low (very low) budget look.

The character of Stuntman Mike is a classic, and he is played superbly by Kurt Russell.  His final death ticks all the boxes of a memorable killing too. We see a sadistic bully change into a tearful coward, and it is genuinely satisfying seeing him suffer so much before getting kicked to death.

7 categories : Mob, Martial Arts, Crash, Shot, Bludgeoning, Chase, Revenge

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Number of views for this review since 30th May 2008: 7687
This review has 1 comment. Reply to the comment
Comment 1 by 'TromaDogg' (reply to this comment)
Loved seeing Stuntman Mike get what he deserved, possibly one of the most satisfying on screen deaths I've ever witnessed. I couldn't help thinking of the Mortal Kombat video games at the end whilst he was being beaten up and could almost hear a voice saying 'Fatality!' when he got his head stomped on, lol.