Kill Bill Volume 1
October 7th, 2003
The 4th film by Quentin Tarantino’s is out, and it was worth the six-year wait. He takes us on a visceral roller coaster ride from beginning to end incorporating all of his love, knowledge and passion for genre flicks to create his own personal homage to his influences.
It’s just your standard old-school revenge flick plot riddled with a cast of bada** muthaf***as. Besides revenge, "Kill Bill" crosses many genres, including yakuza, kung fu, samurai, anime and spaghetti Western. Tarantino (read our interview with the director here) supposedly just kept writing and writing until he wrote too much, with the script soon becoming the size of a telephone book. After viewing the final cut of the film, Tarantino, his producer Lawrence Bender, and Miramax Films decided to cut the finished product into two parts, or "volumes," as they are marketing it.
The Bride (Uma Thurman, related interview here) just wants to get out of the killing business to start a new life and raise a family. Unfortunately, it seems that her boss and former lover Bill does not agree with this decision and decides to send her former friends and partners [The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad] to the chapel to “shoot now or forever hold their peace.” Well they try, they fail and just like Uma says in the trailer, “Guess they should have tried harder…”
Because after being in a coma for four years, she wakes up in a pretty pissed off mood. Just like Old Saint Nick, she’s making a list and checking it twice, going to kill off who has been naughty and not so nice. With her list in one hand and a Sharpie in the other, she proceeds to set out on her mission of revenge, crossing off the bad guys and gals' names along with their lives, one line at a time. While the film is morbidly funny, Thurman plays her character straight, with only vengeance, retribution and her Code of Honor on her mind. She expects nothing less from her former partners in crime as well. By allowing them to choose their weapon of choice, and on their turf, she gives her ex-compatriots the upper hand in the duels, but vengeance is strong and merciless.
Her road to retribution leads her to Japan to confront O Ren-Ishi (Lucy Liu, interview here) -- now head of a Yakuza crime family -- but before she can get to her she has to go through 88 Kato-mask wearing henchman and one vicious Japanese school girl, memorably played by Chiaki Kuriyama from "Batoru Rowaiaru," aka "Battle Royale."
Those waiting for the “Return of Tarantino” will not be disappointed. While "Kill Bill Volume 1" is a departure from his earlier works, with a noticeable lack of Tarantinoesque dialogue, but makes up for it with a great deal more action. The battle that takes place in the House of Blue Leaves took eight weeks to shoot, and what a battle it is. One by one the Crazy 88 fighters try to take out the Bride, individually attacking her, one fighter at a time, a la a Bruce Lee film. She proceeds to dispose of them limb by limb, as he splashes us with gallons of blood and mounds of body parts. I have not seen this much blood spraying from severed bodies since Sam Rami’s "Evil Dead 2" and Peter Jackson’s "Braindead," aka "Dead Alive." The scene is shot in black and white in order to get an R rating from Jack Valenti and the MPAA fascists, but producer Lawrence Bender assures us we can see the colorized version of it in the Japanese cut of the film. Thank you DVD.
The film shot by Robert Richardson is beautiful and rich with texture. The snow garden fight scene between Thurman and Liu feels like we are looking at a painting in a museum. Hats off to Sally Menke for the best editing I have seen so far this year. The film moves along at a brisk pace, shifting seamlessly back and forth through the fractured narrative and multiple flashbacks. The characters are memorable, vicious and cool, and the fight scenes have some of the most spectacular choreography and wirework you will ever see. This film has loads of and energy and is lots of fun, fun, fun. The six-year wait is over. When you finally catch your breath after the film has ended, you’ll be pleading for more and dying to get some answers. Alas we will have to wait for "Volume 2," coming soon to a theater near you February 2004.
My rating: A+