by Eric JamesDaily Cougar Staff
From Dusk Till Dawn begins with all the promise and vibrato of past Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez films.
The visual style is rich and exciting as El Mariachi and Desperado. The dialogue and characters are as intriguing as anything found in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. So where does it go wrong? Answer: Nosferatu.
Seth (George Clooney) and Richard (Tarantino) are the infamous Gecko brothers, who have raped and pillaged across the land and now hope to find refuge in Mexico. The brothers stop in a motel just outside the Mexican border and begin to formulate a plan of escape.
Enter the Fuller family. Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) is a minister who has lost his Faith. After the death of his wife, Jacob packs up his kids in the RV and heads due south. Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott Fuller (Ernest Liu) travel with their father, hoping that he will find his Faith.
The Fullers are soon forcefully drafted by the Gecko brothers and must assist them in their flight across the border. How can they refuse with guns pointed at their heads and the barrel of Richie's gun in Scott's mouth.
The combination of these two groups catapults the film into classic Tarantino/Rodriguez twisted-comedy moments. Seth may be the mouthpiece of the two brothers, but Richie is the scariest. Rodriguez incorporates quiet rumblings into scenes where you can feel Richie's anger begin to boil. Much like a walking volcano, you know when he blows, it won't be pretty.
SO ... they make it to Mexico and head toward Titty Twister. This lovely brothelized version of a trucker bar that houses some of the scummiest dregs of the universe, along with some of the most beautifully seductive women in Mexico. The Brothers Grimm love it ... for a while.
Soon, Santanico Pandemonium (the gorgeous Salma Hayek) takes center stage, and -- as her name suggests -- all hell breaks loose. Yes -- Santanico, the owners, the bartenders, the band, and all the topless dancers are vampires. And not pretty ones at all.
The movie succeeds up to the point where Santanico turns into one of the undead, and then ... oy! Gorefest `96. I'm not sure what tangent they took to come up with vampires, but I guess it works ... for a while.
The film then evolves into two features pieces.
The first is classic and quite brilliant. Tarantino and Rodriguez in top form.
The second is simply disturbing, losing focus and becoming a contest of how many bodies can explode, faces can melt, heads can be decapitated and arms ripped out. It is too much ... even for Tarantino and Rodriguez.
So let's focus on the first part. The dialogue and acting styles are perfectly natural. Tarantino has exhibited his talent for real-sounding dialogue many times before, and he proves himself a master here.
Clooney seems a natural in his role as Seth. His performance never seems to be a struggle, and his management of everything from his gun to the way he speaks his words prove him a fine actor.
Tarantino is refreshingly low-key in his performance. He is soft spoken and chilly. This tactic makes his rare explosions even more frightening and shocking.
If you've seen Cape Fear you've seen Lewis' performance as Kate. You must now continue to pray this once seemingly talented actress will challenge herself as in Husbands and Wives.
Keitel again exhibits why he has become a Tarantino regular. His effortless performances consistently evoke real emotions, often moving and quite likable, while still allowing the audience to know there is a dark side to this character. His struggles in the film, with his Faith and his situation, are handled with skill and grace by this often underrated actor.
The film is quite good, but it loses something about an hour into it. If you could split the two themes and keep the former, this reviewer would highly recommend From Dusk Till Dawn, but this is not the case. The end is too extreme, and most people will have a problem with the ending. Imagine how great this film could have been if the wittiness and subtlety of the first half had been maintained throughout the second, and had not turned into a glorified B-vampire/nudie flick.