Ready for some chili con carnage?
That’s what you get in the Mexico-set “From Dusk Till Dawn,” a jokey action movie that should be a 30-minute “Tales From the Crypt” episode. Written by Quentin Tarantino, this quippy gorefest runs out of scream.
Hunky George Clooney and Tarantino play the Geckos, sibling safecrackers with his-and-his Julius Caesar bangs. They hijack a Winnebago, taking a family of hostages along on a getaway to Mexico. We know this fast, slangy territory, and when we get our first glimpses of the family, we chuckle in recognition because the father is Harvey Keitel and the daughter is Juliette Lewis.
The first part of the movie is loaded with “Pulp Fiction” references: Tarantino eats a burger from Big Kahuna, for instance. And Clooney redoes the cool, spiritual Samuel L. Jackson role from “Fiction,” while Tarantino plays the doltish, trigger-happy John Travolta. This stuff is pretty fun and, amazingly, so is Tarantino. In his last few movies, he strained unsuccessfully to play a cool guy, but here, he’s a geek who thinks he’s cool - a perfect fit for Tarantino.
Just when you think you’ve got “From Dusk Till Dawn” figured out, the cast arrives in Mexico, and the movie does a 180. It would be unfair to spoil the surprise, but it involves bad-to-the-bone vampires, flying body parts, massive quantities of blood and a genuinely erotic merengue by the beauteous Salma Hayek.
Aside from Lewis’ spazzy, out-of-it comic timing, though, the second half of the movie is repetitive and unoriginal. With its abrupt shifts, “From Dusk Till Dawn” may appeal to the short-attention-span set, but even they will grow tired of all the slo-mo shots of goopy viscera dripping from exploded corpses.
There’s an off-putting in-joke feeling to much of the movie, such as the casting of veterans Michael Parks, Fred Williamson and Tom Savini as tough guys and the unbearable Cheech Marin in three roles. Worst of all is the movie’s final shot, which confirms that “From Dusk Till Dawn” is a 90-minute setup for a joke with a very weak punch line.
MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story: 1. “From Dusk Till Dawn” Location: East Sprague, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Robert Rodriguez; Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin Running time: 1:48 Rating: R 2. ANOTHER VIEW Here’s what another critic says about “‘From Dusk Till Dawn:” Michael H. Price/Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The best supernatural shockers don’t waste footage on explaining their implausibilities. They confront ordinary folks with extraordinary menaces and, at peak form, they throw in the horrors without so much as a warning. About the only warning “From Dusk Till Dawn” serves is in its advertising campaign, which makes it plain that we’re dealing with “some vampires” here. Even so, this collaboration between Quentin Tarantino of “Pulp Fiction” and Texas filmmaker Robert Rodriguez compresses a mess of surprising shock value and a provocative story into a compact couple of hours.