'From Dusk Till Dawn': THR's 1996 Review
On Jan. 19, 1996, Dimension Films unveiled the R-rated, Robert Rodriguez-helmed From Dusk Till Dawn in theaters nationwide. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
As he hops from the ER to the abattoir, George Clooney is the best reason to submit yourself to From Dusk Till Dawn, an exceedingly grotesque thriller-horror-comedy that fails to live up to the promise of its opening reels.
With no competition to speak of, the Dimension Films release should enjoy a dynamite opening weekend and keep the momentum going for a few more rounds.
Written by Quentin Tarantino, who also co-stars, the film starts as a tense killers-and-hostages crime drama that might develop into something worthwhile. But an abrupt turn of events results in horrific complications for the leads, who find themselves trapped in a nest of Mexican vampires.
Perhaps it's all a ruse to trap unsuspecting critics, with the buckets-of-gore approach serving as a comment on the excesses of screen violence. But the fact remains, there's enough misogynistic imagery and blatant sadistic fantasy in this film to last the rest of the year.
Clooney and Tarantino play brothers who are trying to get across the border after killing numerous law enforcers and innocents with no compunction. The dialogue and situations in the early scenes evoke Tarantino's best work, but the Oscar winner is hardly a revelation as an actor. His character is a deadly psychopath, but apparently there's nothing of interest going on underneath his pouting, bespectacled visage.
The character played by Clooney, on the other hand, is a likable killer whose loyalty to his brother and willingness to reason with potential victims grants him a shot at redemption. That chance comes when they take as hostages a dispirited preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his two teenage kids (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu).
The slow-burn of Keitel, playing a gentleman in life-threatening situations, could have climaxed in a classic showdown between him and Clooney's character. But the filmmakers toss out that option when the quintet cruises into Mexico and heads for a rendezvous at the Titty Twister, a biker bar catering to the lawless.
Arriving at night, they plan to wait until morning when the hostages will be set free and the bad guys will connect with an underworld kingpin who's offering them a safe haven for the rest of their lives. With little warning, the rules change drastically and the bloodbath ensues.
Despite a few funny gags with a pump-action crucifix and sundry special effects, as well as the helpful presence of genre stars Fred Williamson and Tom Savini, the climax is another showcase for Rodriguez's hyper-kinetic, well-crafted but overblown mayhem.
As dozens of ghoulish corpses pile up and the humans are steadily eliminated, Rodriguez pushes the envelope but fails to make any lasting impression except revulsion at the spectacle of acclaimed independent filmmakers wasting their talents on such trash. — David Hunter, originally published Jan. 18, 1996.