At the risk of sounding undeniably easy/geeky by mentioning this again: Rose McGowan has a machine gun for a leg (!!!) in Planet Terror, the first and most accessible half of Grindhouse. Though that famous image is some kind of genius mix of the physiologically wrong and the emotionally right --I've always thought of McGowan as a harder more vulgar version of many other starlets before her with gorgeous mugs and killer legs, ha ha -- that prop is hardly the only hot/sick thing about this double feature and she's hardly the only woman onscreen with deadly --well, I'd share a little more but I'd risk spoilers about some clever symmetries in the three hour adventure. But I don't wanna spoil anything (you really should see it in theaters)
These are my four favorite women (in alpha order) in Rodriguez & Tarantino's double feature jampacked with babes, gore, guns and abundant vehicular homicide.
Zöe Bell, a New Zealand born stuntwoman, plays herself in Death Proof. Kiwi accents are always adorable and combined with her self-possessed physicality and instantly likeable smile --well, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The cynic would say that this is because she spends half her time in an elaborately compromising position but I really hope she takes another acting role soon to test my theory that this is a woman with screen presence and not just great stunt skills.
Rosario Dawson. Uncle! I've resisted Rosario in the past but since she's looking more and more like she really loves to act (I love it when you can see the joy in performing. I'm usually a goner if that's visible) I've opened my heart. Anyway... appropos of nothing: Remember in 25th Hour when she had those flashback scenes where she's supposed to be in high school only she didn't look young enough? Well she's five years older now (almost 28) but she looks younger than ever in Death Proof. Was it the hairdo? What's going on there?
Rose McGowan, has two legs for most of Grindhouse (she is one of only a handful of actors to appear in both Planet Terror and Death Proof) but the leg gimmick / marketing hook aside this is the best performance I've ever seen her give: Unforced, sexy, charismatic and in on the joke.
Marley Shelton. Aside from her 2000 Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue cover appearance, sandwiched inbetween Chris Klein and Mena Suvari, I've never much noticed this actress before but she was probably my favorite part of Grindhouse. Loved her jittery wide eyed fear and drawn out character gimmick: she plays a nurse with a secret and three deadly colored needles. Rodriguez has lots of fun forcing you to guess how the needles will be used.
As for the movies themselves, I thought Planet Terror was a scream --visually inventive, off its rocker, and perfectly cheesy while maintaining a straight face. Death Proof is wildly exciting in its last act but getting there I'll admit I found torturous. I admired the overall structure a lot and normally I enjoy Tarantino's longwinded dialogue but I failed to see his oft criticized penchant for blather adding up to anything here other than the excessive padding of the running time --can he not edit himself? Here's a thought: Just make a movie that's the same length as your story! If the aim was to make me feel for the characters it didn't work at all. I am mostly a pacifist as a moviegoer and I can't recall ever feeling this way before but I was super glad about the first casualties in Death Proof because I was so anxious for the characters to stop talking --I like talky movies. But I need something to actually be said. The fake trailers were mostly ingenious and fun (Don't! was highlarious but I thought Machete was pretty great, too) but three hours was enough 'sploitation for me. I'm glad I didn't have to sit through the imaginary movies.
Planet Terror B+ / Death Proof C+ / Grindhouse B
Disclaimer: The grade might seem a little low (I had a ball and highly recommend) but adjust accordingly after remembering that I don't go for gore and am not well versed in the type of movies they're paying homage to here.
If you need more from the Grindhouse babes, check out Vanity Fair's fun video of their photoshoot for the magazine. ("Get me Dermarchelier"... "I have Patrick")