Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Salma Hayek, Ernest Liu, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Danny Trejo and Harvey Keitel
Plot: Two outlaws (Clooney, Tarantino) on the run kidnap a preacher (Keitel) and his kids, in order to cross the border into Mexico.
Alas, is it possible to find someone who can go into From Dusk Till Dawn cold before its killer twist is spoiled? In this day and age, where the entire marketing for this film evolves spoiling the third act genre change, it seems an impossible eventuality. But as you watch From Dusk Till Dawn anticipating the finale, you cannot help but wish you were experiencing this for the first time, without any idea of how that iconic strip tease would pan out. For the purposes of setting an example, this review will not discuss the twist.
In fairness, the brilliance of Rodriguez’s film is that the story is doing just fine before the genre shift even happens. This is mainly down to Quentin Tarantino, who both acts and pens the script. Tarantino writes about the chronicles of two brothers, Seth and Ritchie Gecko. They have just robbed a bank and are fleeing from the police, a hostage in hand. Seth is the calm, composed criminal. Ritchie is the deranged brother who often causes the complications with every job, his dark sexual desires barely explained but ominous throughout. Despite their villainous intentions, they are a surprising amount of fun to be around. In refusing to give them a sympathetic side, Rodriguez and Tarantino expose their nastiness and cruelty in full, but add some rich, sharp dialogue that makes them bizarrely likeable. It is hard to feel too uncomfortable when you are around someone with cool dialogue Tarantino brought straight from his own two successful movies, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It is a joy seeing George Clooney in this kind of role. Clooney is guilty of falling back on his natural charisma over getting too deep into a fresh character, so this is perhaps one of the few times we see him venturing outside of that comfort zone. He could have made for a comfortable 90s action star after From Dusk Till Dawn, charming yet distant, tough yet near the end allowing a softer side to break free. Less can be said of Tarantino’s performance. Bless him, he can write with the best of them, but acting is not his fine. However, at the same time, his presence gives From Dusk Till Dawn texture. He feels so much a part of the franchise, it would be odd to not have him in it, as proven by the TV series which casts a better actor, but cannot quite muster the same atmosphere. The supporting cast are welcome too, popular faces from the Rodriguez and Tarantino phone book. Harvey Keitel plays the reverend turning his back on his religion after the death of his wife. Salma Hayek plays a mysterious stripper. Danny Trejo cameos as Danny Trejo. All in all, we get a gripping Rodriguez trademark movie.
For the first half of the movie, we get by on the ticking tension of a crime thriller. As we get the volatile Gecko brothers thrown together with Keitel’s pastor, we wait for the problems to arise. As the cops get closer to their targets, we watch this ticking time bomb, wondering who on earth we side with. Clooney is the fan favourite, despite being the villain, for all intents and purposes. However, he is bound to take the side of his brother, whose mentality is fracturing as the story progresses, meaning the likely demise of the ‘good characters’. Despite a lack of side-taking, we remain fixated at the movie, Tarantino’s script a master-class when it comes to a decent thriller. And then we hit the Titty Twister: the movie’s final resting place. If you have no idea of the twist around the corner, you will likely wonder where this movie is going. Don’t worry, if you’ve enjoyed the camp fun up to now, the surroundings won’t disappoint. Salma Hayek emerges and captivates, killing time until the reveal. Word of warning: be prepared for anything. The thrill is in Rodriguez’s audacity. There is no foreshadowing, no mention of his endgame. It should be a stonewall of a finish, a horrid U-turn in tone that usually marks the end of most thrillers. But perhaps From Dusk Till Dawn doesn’t change too much, down to the fact that the characters keep to that trademark Rodriguez characterisation, even when the movie crumbles down around them. Perhaps by the final few moments, Rodriguez does push the joke too far. That is a question of taste. However, critics marvel at the magician display of twists here. Few directors ever can get away with such a blind-siding way of story-telling. This makes From Dusk Till Dawn almost an one-of-a-kind movie. Fun, thrilling and… hopefully… unexpected.
Final Verdict: A rare treat. Even without the killer twist, From Dusk Till Dawn’s dialogue, direction and acting packs a bite.
Glad you enjoyed this movie. Even if you know what happened. It’s still fun to see how it did. You should check out Full Tilt Boogie which is the documentary about the making of this. It’s a lot of fun because it focuses on the crew and how much fun they had.