GRINDHOUSE — ** 1/2 — Rose McGowan, Kurt Russell; rated R (violence, gore, profanity, drugs, sex, vulgarity, nudity, racial epithets).
"Grindhouse" runs three-plus hours and is simply too much of a good-bad thing.
The film consists of two feature-length movies and fake movie trailers, or "prevues," and is supposed to be directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's affectionate homage to the grainy-looking, gritty and often exploitative '70s movies that were shown as double features, usually in run-down theaters.
Unfortunately, watching that much deliberately cheesy and sleazy filmmaking becomes wearying, and one of the two-movies-within-a-movie is arguably better than the other. (In some European film markets, the two movies are being shown separately, which might be a better way to take them in.)
The first of the features is "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's blood-soaked, sci-fi/horror yarn about scientifically created zombies running amok in a small Texas community. And yes, this is the one featuring Rose McGowan as the character with a machine gun for a leg.
As for the smash-'em-up "Deathproof," it's Tarantino's salute to such vehicle-based thrillers as "Vanishing Point" (1971) and "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" (1974); this one stars Kurt Russell as a crazed stunt driver.
Both of the so-called "feature presentations" certainly have their talky aspects, but at least the splattery conclusion to "Planet Terror" is sort of satisfying. The self-indulgent "Deathproof" takes forever to get started and then just pretty much ends.
Actually, the trailers may be the strongest aspect of the entire presentation: "Thanksgiving" may be in dubious taste (it comes from director Eli Roth, of "Hostel" fame), but it's amusing in a cringe-worthy way. Rodriguez also offers a faux-revenge thriller trailer, "Machete," which stars Danny Trejo. And "Don't Scream," from the makers of the British cult hit "Shawn of the Dead," is a perfectly done terror-movie spoof.
"Grindhouse" is rated R for strong action and horror violence (shootings, stabbings, beatings, zombie attacks, automotive mayhem and explosive mayhem), graphic gore and other goo, strong sexual profanity, strong drug content (toxic chemicals, marijuana use and hypodermic needles), simulated sex, vulgar gestures and humor, female nudity, and use of racial epithets. Running time: 191 minutes.