For some reason, Death Proof takes a lot of shit. It is consistently referred to as writer/director Quentin Tarantino's worst movie. The director himself even did the movie dirty by ranking it at the bottom of his filmography. I get that it feels more 'slight' than his other work; after all, it was made to fill out the back half of Grindhouse and designed to function like a 1970s exploitation movie, complete with all the limitations and clunkiness that entails. But I would argue it's QT's more personal film, too, and one of the very best examples of its genre -- as car movies go, it's quite near the top. It's a shame that everyone is so quick to dismiss the film as a lark at best, a stunt at worst. Death Proof is a truly great movie.
It's also a movie that comments on a lot of the toxic shit that's going on right now, in large part because it's the same toxic shit that's been going for years: what was true in 2007 is still true today. But we've seen this ugliness appear in new ways and are calling it out more than before thanks to the #MeToo movement. At the same time, the "Incel" (involuntary celibate) fucks on Reddit -- the ones who think the government should be supplying them with a woman to act as their sexual slave, because this is a thing some men have been emboldened to think and say out loud in 2018 -- have given themselves a label and a philosophy that goes beyond even the usual hatred/fear of women. There is a certain kind of misogyny that has been labeled and codified now, as has the push back against it. Both sides have grown stronger as a result. I know which side is going to win in the end. So does Death Proof.
And then there is Tarantino himself, who we now know was somewhat complicit in the years of sexual assault committed by Harvey Weinstein (in his own words, he "knew enough to know he should have done more"). He appears in Death Proof as the owner of the bar in which we first meet Stuntman Mike eating his nacho platter. He's also, coincidentally, the one guy familiar with Stuntman Mike. He tells the character played by Rose McGowan -- herself an outspoken real-life victim of Harvey Weinstein -- Stuntman Mike's name. She askes "Who's Stuntman Mike?" He responds "He's a stuntman." He knows who Stuntman Mike is, yet serves him anyway.
The difference this time is that this group of women aren't having any of Stuntman Mike's shit. His time, as they say, is up. He runs them off the road but fails to kill them, then gets out of the car and laughs, mistakenly thinking what he was doing was fun or funny. Instead of running away, Tracie Thoms' Kim takes out her gun and shoots him in the arm. He screams and speeds away, terrified to have the tables turned. The whole scenario plays out just like something I observed on Twitter last week, in which some fucking asshole inserted himself into the Twitter feed of a friend, thinking he was being cute or funny. When he was called out and put into his place, he immediately crumbled and fled back to his regular racist, misogynist timeline. Like Stuntman Mike and too many men before and after him, he was not used to being challenged for his shitty behavior. When he was, he retreated like the coward he is. Like the coward they all are.
Tarantino, who knows how to deliver a satisfying ending (see also: Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, and Django Unchained), gives Death Proof the most satisfying ending possible: the women run Stuntman Mike off the road, and while he's trapped and emitting a ridiculous, high-pitched scream, drag his body from the car and beat the shit out of him. Standing him up in the middle of the highway, they each take turns punching and kicking him, Tarantino's camera lingering on every blow to the extent that he occasionally freeze frames on the damage being inflicted. Those women deserve their revenge...and Stuntman Mike deserves to die.
Oh, and the car chase really is super cool.