Within his impressive filmography, Quentin Tarantino considers “Boulevard de la mort” to be at the very bottom of the list. During the release of the slasher with Kurt Russell, the filmmaker also experienced an inglorious screening in the company of Edgar Wright.
Boulevard of Death: the infernal pursuits
In 2007, Quentin Tarantino joined forces with his friend Robert Rodriguez for the diptych Grindhouse. If in the United States, it is a double program paying homage to exploitation films, the two feature films have the right to separate releases in France, in extended versions.
That of Quentin Tarantino, Boulevard of Death takes the form of a slasher on American roads split into two parts. In the first, stuntman Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) traps a first victim, Kim (Rose McGowan), in a bar. At the end of the evening, he offers to drive her home with his car, designed to be shockproof in the driver’s seat, but not in the passenger’s seat. After roughing her up, he hunts down a group of friends, made up of Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, and Jordan Ladd.
In the second part of Boulevard of Death, Stuntman Mike is looking for new targets. But when he sets off in pursuit of Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Tracie Thoms, the crazy driver is unaware that he has come across formidable adversaries.
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘worst’ movie?
Highly referenced work multiplying, in particular, the tributes to the career of Kurt Russell as well as to thrillers where murderers rage on the roads like Duel, Road Games Where Hitcher, Boulevard of Death is not the feature film that Quentin Tarantino prefers in his filmography. During a panel discussion with Ben Affleck, Gus Van Sant, David O. Russell, Ang Lee, and Tom Hooper organized by The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, the filmmaker even assures that it is the least successful project of his career.
While he is already talking about retiring and the idea of not making the film too much, the director explains:
I know a lot of directors’ careers very well, and when you look at their last five movies, they were really out of touch with the era, whether it was William Wyler with You can’t buy silence or Billy Wilder with Fedora and buddy-buddy. For me, it’s all about my filmography, and I want to leave with a great filmography. Boulevard of Death has to be the worst movie i’ve ever done. And for a failed film, it’s still not that bad, right? So if it’s still the worst movie of my career, that’s fine with me.
“An experience that forces humility”
If Quentin Tarantino is not kind to Boulevard of Death may be because he did not digest his commercial failure. While the double program Grindhouse grossed just over $25 million in the United States, the feature film on Stuntman Mike only brought in $31 million worldwide. During a Q&A session hosted with fans by Empire in 2020, the filmmaker says about this crash, quoted by Les Inrockuptibles :
About the diptych Grindhouse, I think Robert Rodriguez and I assumed that people felt pretty close to the concept of doubleheaders and exploitation films. (…) No, they weren’t. Not at all. They had no fucking idea what they were looking at. What we were doing meant nothing to them. In this specific case, we were a little too sure of ourselves.
He then recalls an inglorious London session with Edgar Wright:
I was in London for the promo before the release. And I’m going to see Edgar Wright: “Hey, what if you, your friends and I were going to see him on Friday night?”. So its producer Nira Park, Joe Cornish and the whole gang at Edgar, we go to the heart of Piccadilly Circus to see Boulevard of Death the day of its release. We walk into the cinema and there are like 13 people. The day of the release, at 8:30 p.m.! It is an experience that forces humility. But we sat down, watched it and had fun. Edgar said to me: “It was impressive. I think I would have left myself. The fact that you said ‘Fuck it’, and that you stayed, I find that admirable”.