Hal Hinson - Style section, "Violent."
'From Dusk Till Dawn'
Armed robbers Seth Gecko and his softspoken, psychotic brother Richard find themselves cornered in a convenience store when an unsuspecting Texas Ranger wanders in. While the Ranger chats casually with the petrified storekeeper, the criminals hold two hostages at gunpoint in the back. When paranoid brother Richard thinks the storekeeper is signaling the Ranger, the scene ends in a bloodbath and conflagration.
The fugitives, who want to escape to Mexico with their stolen money, commandeer a mobile home with new hostages: Jacob Fuller, a preacher who has recently lost his faith, and his two children. The gunmen and family are about to experience the most horrifying nightmare of their lives, one full of violent vampires and relentless bats. -- Desson Howe
Quentin's 'Dusk': Hurry Up Dawn
By Desson Howe
A very troubling yet indistinct thought has been rising to the top of my cluttered brain with each Quentin Tarantino movie. But after watching "From Dusk Till Dawn," which Tarantino scripted and appears in, that thought has become unmistakably clear: Quentin Tarantino is the antichrist. He is screen violence made flesh. He is us. We are him. And unfortunately, Quentin Tarantino is what we deserve.
"From Dusk Till Dawn," a grisly, quasi-comedy directed by Robert Rodriguez (who made "El Mariachi" and "Desperado"), has a propulsive, pseudo-hip metabolism. It's often witty, in a grotesque kind of way; and, by its own peculiar standards, it's occasionally inventive. But the movie, which features two killers on the lam, a family held hostage and a Mexican bar full of vampires and varmints, is gratuitously nasty, even for the likes of Tarantino.
Armed robbers Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his softspoken, psychotic brother Richard (Tarantino) find themselves cornered in a convenience store when an unsuspecting Texas Ranger wanders in. While the Ranger chats casually with the petrified storekeeper, the criminals hold two hostages at gunpoint in the back. When paranoid brother Richard thinks the storekeeper is signaling the Ranger, the scene ends in a bloodbath and conflagration. And that's just the beginning of the movie.
The fugitives, who want to escape to Mexico with their stolen money, commandeer a mobile home with new hostages: Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), a preacher who has recently lost his faith, and his two children. While Seth keeps his depraved brother from pawing Fuller's teenage daughter (Juliette Lewis), the group heads across the border for a rendezvous with a certain "Carlos" at a strip joint whose name should go unmentioned in a family newspaper.
Without giving too much away, the gunmen and family are about to experience the most horrifying nightmare of their lives, one full of violent vampires, relentless bats, decayed denizens of hell—you know, the usual crowd.
This journey to hell, which includes a steamy strip number by sultry performer Santanico Pandemonium ("Desperado's" Salma Hayek), provocative special effects and out-of-the-stratosphere violence, manages to be as gruesome as it is dull. My dwindling faith in Tarantino vanished to nothingness just before this extended sequence, when the joint's hawker (Cheech Marin) peddled a particular female body part with repulsive repetition. The relentless crudity is meant to be funny, but it's just relentless.
Tarantino's gallery-playing bloodlust worked in "Pulp Fiction" thanks to its underlying humanism. If you loved that movie, you also loved every character. In "Dusk," no one engages you, although Clooney (Mr. "ER" Heartthrob) makes an impressive screen debut as the tough-talking, sangfroid Seth. The movie, which treats you with contempt for even watching it, is a monument to its own lack of imagination. It's a triumph of vile over content; mindless nihilism posing as hipness. And while watching this disappointing fantasy (which seemed to take from dusk till dawn), I could almost hear the flicking of a tail, the thumping of cloven hoofs and a squeaky, cackling voice yelling, "Suckers! Suckers! Suckers!"
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (R) — Contains a numbing plurality of nudity, grotesque violence and profanity.
‘Dusk to Dawn’: A Night to Dismember
By Hal Hinson
We should have known we were doomed when, during a recent interview in a British magazine, Quentin Tarantino applauded Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls" as one of the best movies of last year.
The script for Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" is the first feature that Tarantino has written since his breakaway success with "Pulp Fiction," and from the evidence here, the designing auteur of that landmark film is resting on his laurels. A violent road movie that disintegrates into a lurid vampire spoof, "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a tired, humorless pastiche of various exploitation genres that is not the least bit imaginative in its campy deconstruction of conventions.
The result is a plodding, aggressive film that is neither engaging, disturbing nor funny. The story is simple almost to the point of absurdity. A pair of homicidal brothers on the run from the law, Seth and Richard Gecko (George Clooney and Tarantino himself) are nobody's idea of heroes. While knocking over a small bank, they take a hostage, but after Richard rapes and kills her (without Seth's permission), they need another prisoner.
Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his kids, Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu), fit the bill nicely—plus their recreational vehicle is parked right outside the door. All the brothers' prisoners have to do is get the boys to a certain honky-tonk, and they'll be set free.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever that simple. When the group finally reaches its destination—a rockin', anything-goes sort of roadhouse—it turns out to be the haunt of voracious vampires.
If the movie is a casually straightforward, even straight-faced, homage to road movies before the club, it abruptly shifts into full-bore farce afterward. Once inside, Seth and his brother spar with the clientele (mostly bikers and truckers), until a stripper named Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) makes her entrance and signals her comrades to let the sucking begin.
After that, it's nothing but spurting aortas and flash-burning carcasses. As the night ticks toward dawn, this beleaguered squad of humans attempts to fight its way out of trouble, ramming the evil undead with stakes.
There are some jokes scattered here and there—the main one being the presence of Fred Williamson, who makes one superfly vampire killer—but for the most part, the jokey tone is sustained by the outrageousness of the bloodletting. It's so excessive that it's meant to be hilarious.
The audaciously choreographed atrocities of Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" movies—from which Tarantino and Rodriguez have borrowed liberally—were hilarious. But "From Dusk Till Dawn" doesn't have the wit or the inventiveness of Raimi's films, nor does it provide the basic pleasures of most exploitation films.
With the exception of a hyperbolic opening sequence at a liquor store, the film fails to showcase the formidable talent for large-scale pyrotechnics that Rodriguez, who also edits his movies, showed in "Desperado" (the studio remake of his independently financed "El Mariachi"). And nothing of the anxious mix of tension and humor that characterized Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction" is evident either.
The only good news, really, is that Clooney makes a terrific debut as an action star. His looks translate beautifully to the big screen, as does his California laconism. He, at least, bears watching, even if "From Dusk Till Dawn" does not.
From Dusk Till Dawn is rated R for excessive violence, gore, adult situations and suggestions of child molestation.