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Feb 21, 2007


For the life of me, I can't figure out who is being exploited these days. Long gone are the days of blaxploitation or sexploitation films, and though there may be elements of those in the new films Black Snake Moan and Grindhouse, those labels just can't possibly apply to this new breed.

Robert Rodriguez, co-director (in a manner of speaking) of Grindhouse has been heading down these tracks for some time now. From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City shared some elements of those films of old, and he and Quentin Tarantino have decided to go all the way with Grindhouse. The plot summary listed on IMDb.com is as follows:

"An homage to exploitation B-movie thrillers that combines two feature-length segments into o
ne double-bill designed to replicate the grind house theatergoing experience of the 70s and 80s. In "Death Proof," a psycho named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) stalks and kills beautiful women with his car. In "Planet Terror," a small-town sheriffs' department has to deal with an outbreak of murderous, infected people called "sickos." A gun-legged woman named Cherry (Rose McGowan) and her martial arts-wielding partner (Freddy Rodriguez) take on the zombie army. The two films will be fused together by fake movie trailers."

Meanwhile, Craig Brewer, director of the Memphis-based pimp saga Hustle & Flow, has Black Snake Moan coming out soon. Moan is described as such:

"A God-fearing bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson) takes to a wild young woman (Christina Ricci) who, as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, looks everywhere for love, never quite finding it."

I can't say that I'm on board with either. In fact, they sound like trainwrecks whose only redeeming qualities may be how laughably bad they are. With Grindhouse, I can at least understand (kind of) what Tarantino and Rodriguez are shooting for (the post-modern exploitation film, complete with self-aware "badness"). Moan, however, appears to take itself quite seriously, which doesn't bode well for it. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that, despite Terrence Howard's strong performance, I found Hustle & Flow to be wildly overhyped, cliched, predictable, you name it. The in-your-face, over-the-top Memphis accent employed by Howard didn't help matters. Know what I'm saying, main?)

The larger issue at hand here is what I find to be wasted talent. Tarantino, Rodriguez and Brewer are all very talented filmmakers - why are they making B-movies, much less on purpose? Remember, the exploitation films of the past were typically made out of necessity and/or carved out for an audience that was underserved. Somehow, I get the feeling that that's not the case here. It is possible, after all, to make pulp films that have a point and resonate with their audiences - Tarantino and Rodriguez have done this many times, as writer, director, or both. Why not (even attempt to) do that again?

0 people have chosen wisely: on "Fill-in-the-blank-sploitation?"