From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn (1997)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis
Extras: Theatrical trailer

When two visionary filmmakers get together to create a movie, the result can be something completely captivating, something that is so different from anything you’ve seen that you actually start to wonder what it is that makes this movie so special. "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a prime example of this, bringing together as it does the talents of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Writer and director Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood’s shooting star of recent years – although slightly overrated for my taste – is probably best known for his unflinchingly violent movies and even more so for his interesting screenplays and witty dialogues. Yet, while having written and directed good movies such as "Pulp Fiction" or "Reservoir Dogs", Tarantino does not have the trademark directorial style and visual approach of Robert Rodriguez, whose "Desperado" is a signature piece of modern day movie making. Together they have created a movie that combines their individual skills and strengths. The result is "From Dusk Till Dawn", an action spectacle that is hard, fast, and loud.

Richie (Quentin Tarantino) and Seth Gecko (George Clooney) are two dangerous outlaws on a killing spree, heading toward Mexico. Richie is a mentally underdeveloped nerd, a rapist, and a cold blooded killer. His brother Seth is the calculating and cool part of the team, trying to stay on top of things and one step ahead of the police. Unfortunately, his brother’s unpredictable, bloody-tempered outbursts cause trouble, drawing increasing attention to the duo and their bloody trail. Finally, only miles from the Mexican border, they need to find a safe passage across. In order to achieve this, they kidnap a father (Harvey Keitel) and his two children (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) and head south in the family’s spacious camper. Keeping their hostages in check at gun point, they manage to cross the border unharmed and head for a seedy Mexican bar, the meeting point where they are supposed to meet Carlos, a man who will presumably take them further south into safety. The bar turns out to be a wild and rowdy biker cave. Before Carlos can show up to pick up the two brothers, something unbelievable happens with the bar’s notorious clientele, something that makes the two brothers look like amateurs, an event that forces them to join forces with their hostages in order to live through the night.

If you haven’t seen the movie before and don’t know what to expect, you won’t believe your eyes. The moment the movie takes on a wild spin and makes the killing spree of the Gecko brothers appear like a simple side act is extraordinarily surprising. This plot device is the major element that makes "From Dusk Till Dawn" unique. It is typical for a Tarantino script to take unexpected turns, but this one is absolutely wicked. The film also features a vast number of the witty and totally dry lines that Tarantino’s work has become so famous for, lining it up next to his highly acclaimed "Pulp Fiction". The film has a strong cast that works well within the premises. Tarantino is the perfect nerd, completely detached from reality and the consequences or the importance of his actions. George Clooney’s performance as the colder, calculating of the two, is even stronger. His character is both sympathetic yet absolutely lethal and unscrupulous. Harvey Keitel’s character of the disillusioned priest is slightly underdeveloped, but still carries enough weight to be believable. Juliette Lewis rounds up the cast with a good performance as the teenage daughter who gets caught up in the thrill of the events, although the portrayal of her character is slightly too familiar it echoes strongly of her various other parts in other films. It is a pleasure to see some other familiar faces, like Cheech Marin in three different parts and special effects icon Tom Savini as the kickboxing "Sexmachine".

"From Dusk Till Dawn" comes in its original theatrical 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Rodriguez is a stylish, visually driven director and it is important for a movie like this that the complete image content is preserved in order for them to achieve their maximum impact. The disc’s image quality is very good with a sharp picture that exhibits good details and has no signs of <$pixelation,pixelation>. The colors are vibrant and well saturated, without noticeable noise or bleeding. The transfer brings out the best of the sandy colors of the film’s many desert-like outdoor settings, while also faithfully reproducing the movie’s numerous interior shots.

One of Rodriguez’s trademarks is his usage of sound and music to emphasize his imagery and "From Dusk Till Dawn" makes no exception here. It features a very aggressive soundtrack that has been powerfully reproduced on the disc’s <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix. It is rich with deep bass extensions and very active split surround effects. It is a dynamic soundtrack and I mean very dynamic. In certain scenes, the music and the sound effects virtually explode in your face, perfectly underscoring the images on screen, making this film an extremely jarring experience. It is fascinating how Rodriguez oftentimes utilizes music instead of sound effects to create the biggest impact. The disc features an English language track only, but contains additional Spanish subtitles. The disc also contains the movie’s teaser and the theatrical trailer.

"From Dusk Till Dawn" is a film that openly carries the spirit of our times; that is, it contains plenty of foul language and is overly graphic and violent. This could probably be considered the film’s biggest drawback, at least from my point of view. Though the violence is extremely exaggerated to the point that it becomes unrealistic, I find it very unsettling to know that these crimes happen every day in reality. Do we really need to watch these wrecked personalities on screen? Do we really need these close-ups of killers gone mad? Couldn’t it be that these images actually help to make us insensitive to these events? People like Richie are a product of our society and if the movies we watch glorify this kind of violence, we should not be too surprised to find these people in our own backyards. Fortunately, the plot spin in the second half of the movie refocuses the viewer on a different premise where the violence and bloodshed is a little more appropriate.

If you don’t mind the film’s strong content, "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a very funny and vastly entertaining movie. Many of the dialogues are astounding in their simplicity and their twisted meaning in the context of the film. It is a well-crafted movie, too, with great cinematography and a powerful soundtrack. It has everything a gripping action movie needs and on top of it, it contains one of the most unexpected plot spins you have ever seen.