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Grindhouse: Cherry Darling

NECA Reel Toys
by Monkey Boy

I'm not sure why Grindhouse failed at the box office. It was an exciting project from two bankable directors, with some action-packed trailers and a strong merchandising blitz, and critics seemed to unanimously enjoy its quirky concept. Perhaps expectations were just too high. It was a hard R movie after all, and they can't all be 300.

Part of the merchandising blitz involved action figures (and other products) from NECA, who truly seem to have become the go-to guys for collectibles based on highly-anticipated action/sci-fi/horror movies. There were three figures in the first series of Grindhouse figs, and they're all from the superior half of the movie, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. NECA has shown prototype images of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell's character from Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof) but they've been hesitant to announce an entire series of Death Proof figs... and really, who wants figures of a bunch of gabby girls? [Artemis, probably? --ed.]

The first series features Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block, Quentin Tarantino as "Rapist #1", and Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling. A go-go dancer turned zombie plague survivor, Cherry is the girl you see plastered all over the posters and trailers... you know, the one with the tubetop and the wicked-awesome assault rifle leg. I must say, I never really liked Rose McGowan, but I have a new respect for her after seeing Grindhouse. The "hot girl with a gun leg" is instantly iconic, and deserves a spot in the annals of nerd history right there with Arnold's shotgun from Terminator 2 and Ash's chainsaw hand from Evil Dead II.

As such, Cherry is the must-have figure from this set. And thankfully, NECA didn't screw her up. The sculpt is nice, with a great likeness of Rose McGowan, although it's got the typical bitchy expression of Rose McGowan the actress, rather than the pouty, vulnerable expression of Cherry Darling the insecure go-go dancer. The sculpt captures the female form nicely, and the details in her leather boots and skirt are impressive. However, it's not perfect.

The hair is chunky and rough in sculpt; it fails to really capture Cherry's wavy 'do. Also, her top doesn't quite look like anything I remember her wearing in the film, and it's certainly not the top she's wearing when she finally gets that M16A4 jammed in her leg hole. Gross. Still, the figure is instantly recognizable as who it's supposed to be, and since it is a hot girl with a gun for a leg, I'm not too concerned with 100% movie accuracy here.

The paint is good, but make sure you pick the best example at the store, since like most NECA figures the work can vary drastically between individual figures. The biggest problems seem to be errant marks on the skin, and way too much wash used in the figure's navel. Search around and you should be able to find a figure that appears to understand proper hygiene. Other than that, all the paint apps are fine, and there's some nice detail, especially in the tiny gold chains on her boots and skirt. The gun is also nicely weathered, with a dry-brushing of dull silver and copper.

NECA seems to be going the way of the unarticulated female figure, with Cherry here following hot on the heels of 300's Queen Gorgo. Cherry moves even less than the good queen, with a balljoint in the neck, a peg joint at the right thigh (where the leg attaches), and peg joints at the boot tops. Four points. Extremely pathetic, and I'm especially pissed that she can't even point her gun at anything. A decent diagonal swivel in her hip could have discreetly provided the articulation needed for her to lift her leg up. Still, I'll give them credit for not putting utterly unnecessary, form-interrupting peg joints in very visible places (a la McFarlane). If your figure's going to be under-articulated, at least make it a pretty statue.

To accessorize your Cherry, you get an alternate, unmarred leg and a display base. The normal leg is a nice addition, and the display base is necessary (she ain't standing on her own with that gun leg), but she could have come with more. Where's her improvised prosthesis made of a broken chair leg? It's what she wears for most of the movie. Also, even with the display base, the figure is prone to toppling over, unless you find that sweet spot where she'll balance indefinitely. I've suffered two devastating shelf dives with this figure, and the thin, brittle barrel of the rifle does not do well with floor crashes. It's needed superglue attention... twice. So be careful.

This figure is nice to have, since it represents such an iconic image from the movie (and honestly, it's an iconic image that can and should transcend the movie), but it could be better. It could be more movie accurate. It could have more accessories. It could have some useful articulation (seriously, what's a figure with a gun if it can't point said gun at anything but the floor?). Still, it looks great in any display and is, realistically, the best we can hope to get unless NECA or someone else revisits this property down the road... and after the dismal box office performance of the film, that seems unlikely. So grab yourself up a Cherry Darling, because - movie accuracy be damned - who doesn't want a toy of a hot chick with a gun for a leg?

-- 04/03/10

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