Starring: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu
Rated R for Strong Violence and Gore, Language and Nudity
Watching "From Dusk Till Dawn," I got the sense that everyone involved in the project was enjoying themselves immensely making it. From frame one, it's played with its tongue firmly planted in cheek. This an extremely silly horror movie. And I mean that as a compliment.
Bank robbers Seth (Clooney) and Ritchie Gecko (Tarantino) are two brothers on the run from a bank robbery gone bad. The "cool under pressure" Seth and psychopathic Ritchie are heading to Mexico to live in paradise. To cross the border without getting caught, the two hijack the RV of an ex-preacher named Jacob Fuller (Keitel) and his two children Kate (Lewis) and Scott (Lir). The crossing is a success, and they go to the meeting point where the Gecko brothers will be picked up by some friends. The meeting place is an out of the way dive called the Titty Twister, and unfortunately for them, the people that run the place are vampires.
The combined talents of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote the screenplay and stars in the film) and Robert Rodriguez (who directed) is a match made in heaven. It makes sense; the men are good friends off screen and are rebellious filmmakers with a love of grade-Z exploitation flicks. Which is what this is, only with a bigger budget and stars.
The performances are effective, but this is one of those movies where acting is little real concern. George Clooney, previously known for TV's "E.R." got his big break with this flick. He has little trouble pulling off the Tarantinian dialogue, and while he would go on to play a loveable rascal in many of his movies ("The Peacemaker," the "Ocean's 11" movies, etc), here he's playing an asshole times ten. Clooney makes it work. Harvey Keitel manages to keep a straight face amid all the cheese, which is something of an accomplishment. Ditto for Juliette Lewis. The weak links are Tarantino and Ernest Liu. Tarantino is a much better filmmaker than he is an actor, and while he's adequate, that's the best I can say about him. Would that I could say the same thing about Ernest Liu, whose performance is so bad he makes soap opera acting look like Meryl Streep.
Robert Rodriguez, who came on to the stage with his $7000 hit "El Mariachi," finds the right tone for this flick. He knows it's silly. We know it's silly. And he knows we know it's silly. Rodriguez straddles the line between horror and comedy, and like his buddy Tarantino, he peppers it with loads of cameos (Kelly Preston, Robert Saxon, Tom Savini, Michael Parks) and references to other movies.
Be warned, it's very violent and there is so much blood and gore than "over-the-top" comes up short by several orders of magnitude. But that's kind of the point. It's so overplayed that it becomes groovy and cool rather than scary and disturbing. Then again, that may be scary and disturbing in and of itself. That's a discussion for another day.