Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are two of the most original voices in film working today. In 1996 they teamed up to make From Dusk Till Dawn, a wildly inconsistent, but mostly entertaining vampire thriller with a script from Tarantino and Rodriguez directing.
The film starts out with the Gecko brothers, (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) who are on the run from the law, robbing a liquor store. When Tarantino believes that the clerk is trying to tip off a police officer, the whole robbery goes awry, ending in a violent bloodbath. On their journey towards Mexico the Gecko’s take Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his two children (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) hostage so that they can cross the border without being seen. After reaching their destination, which is an out of the way trucker bar, the group notices that everything isn’t as it seems since most of the bar patrons turn into blood-sucking vampires.
If it sounds like this film takes two very different movies and shoves them together, that’s because it does. The first part of this film is a very interesting character study about two brothers desperately trying to escape to safety. Their actions and dialogue are vintage Tarantino and some scenes are as good as anything the director has put out. Take, for instance, a scene in a hotel room that the Gecko’s are staying in. They have a middle-aged woman as their hostage and Tarantino is told to watch her as Clooney goes out for some burgers. What follows is a creepy, but wonderfully written exchange between the Quentin and the hostage. His is obviously crazy and cannot help himself.
The film runs into problems as soon as they arrive at the trucker bar because it takes such a great first part of the film and throws it away into routine vampire carnage. All of the originality of the first ‘movie’ is transformed into a seemingly endless barrage of vampire fighting. Is the action well filmed? Absolutely. The problem with it is that it takes over the story. Of course the men in charge knew exactly what they were doing and they probably set out to make exactly the picture that is made, but that doesn’t change the fact that is falls off the rails.
Both Tarantino and Rodriguez have made excellent movies before and after From Dusk Till Dawn and their talents are obvious as we watch this film. But it is because of that immense talent that I was slightly disappointed with the second half here. What started out with an interesting brother relationship and a conflicted priest turned into a run-of-the-mill action fest without much pay-off.