US Release Date: 10-10-2003
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
- Uma Thurman, as
- Black Mamba
- David Carradine, as
- Lucy Liu, as
- Daryl Hannah, as
- California Mountain Snake
- Vivica A. Fox, as
- Michael Madsen, as
- Michael Parks as
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 1.
Quentin Tarantino (arguably the most talented writer/director of the past ten years) is back with his fourth movie and his first since 1997's Jackie Brown. Kill Bill: Vol. I is a slick, ultra-violent, comic book/martial arts movie. It is great entertainment made with orgasmic flair. Like most of his work this movie is not for all tastes. He does seem to relish violence and gore for its own sake. But what sets K.B. apart from Tarantino's other films is that here - although a certain amount of gritty realism is portrayed - the violence and characters that inhabit this world are far enough removed from reality that they are a bit less unnerving. Don't get me wrong; there is enough bloodshed on display to fill an Olympic size swimming pool. But the geysers of spurting red-stuff and the literal gallons that gush out from disembowelments are hyper real and therefore easier to stomach.
The plot is straight out of the pages of a comic. A female assassin awakens from a coma after four years, bent on revenge. Her former squad ('The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad' to be exact), led by the enigmatic Bill, attacked her on her wedding day, reasons unknown. With the exception of the bride the entire wedding party was slaughtered. Oh, and she was pregnant at the time.
This simple storyline is made more complex by the manner that it is shown. As is the director's trademark, the movie jumps around in time, revealing pieces of information here and there. Another Tarantino tradition is the quirky mix of humor and violence. Early on in the movie The Bride - or Black Mamba as she was known in the squad - goes to the suburban home of Vernita Green, AKA Copperhead, to exact revenge. The two women face off with large knives, practically destroying the house. There is a shot of them in the living room, catching their breaths, knives in hand ready to battle. Suddenly we see a school bus pull up in front of the house through a large picture window. Vernita's young daughter gets out and runs up to the house, all girlhood innocence. What follows is one of the most original scenes I have watched in a long time. Very few filmmakers can balance genuine laughs with such visceral and intense action.
The climax of the movie occurs when Black Mamba travels to Japan to kill O-Ren Ishi/Copperhead, as she goes down her Death List, checking off the names one by one. O-Ren is the leader of Japan's 'Crazy 88' a notorious crime organization. Black Mamba shows up to kill her at The House of Blue Leaves nightclub where O-Ren is holding court. In a frenzy of violence, Black Mamba fights dozens of O-Ren's henchman. There is so much slashing, hacking and stabbing going on, with geysers of gore literally covering the screen, that the movie actually switches to black and white for a few minutes. When it is all over the camera pulls back to reveal a room full of bloody corpses, body parts and the wounded, flailing about and screaming in agony. It recalls the famous shot of all the soldiers lying on the ground along the railroad tracks in Gone With the Wind.
Uma Thurman's performance, the way she plays it all so serious, provides the glue that holds it all together. She is all guts and determination, with an occasional glimpse of the woman beneath the obsession of revenge.
Tarantino's affection and respect for the genres' he revives is apparent in his choice to cast veteran Japanese stars Sonny Chiba and Chiaki Kuriyama in small parts. The international cast adds authenticity to the movie.
Clearly inspired by seventies martial arts flicks, never before has one - from what has always been considered a B-movie genre - been given such lush cinematography. There is even an ultra-violent, but beautifully rendered animated segment that somehow doesn't throw off the pace.
Kill Bill is bright, original and clever. It is also crude and brutal to the point of being disgusting. One thing it's not is dull.
Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu in Kill Bill: Volume 1.
Kill Bill is a chill thrill. It is action packed, with a sometimes breathless pace. Yet, it all has a feel of laid back, artistic cool. It is cheesy, but Tarantino treats it all so seriously that you easily fall into this kaleidoscopic film.
The opening shot gets your attention. It is a black and white shot of a bride's bloodied face. The soundtrack plays Nancy Sinatra's haunting version of ''Bang Bang (My Baby Shot me Down).'' With this beginning, you know you are watching a movie directed by someone who makes up his own rules.
The scene Patrick found so funny is anything but. It certainly is surreal. A mother is fighting for her life as her 4-year daughter walks in. This little girl stares at these two heavy breathing, bloodied women. The little girl knows something is wrong, but can't quite grasp what. This is a great scene, but it is anything but funny.
Patrick went on about the action. Sure, it will get most of the attention. However, you should not over look the dialogue. Uma Thurman has several good lines. I love it when she is talking to Lucy Liu, who asks her ''You didn't think it would be that easy did you?'' Thurman responds, ''Yeah, for awhile there I kind of did.'' Thurman's, character's most revealing line is, ''It's mercy compassion and forgiveness I lack-not rationality.'' Daryl Hannah has a line that James Bond could appreciate. She tells a comatose Thurman that, ''Dying in our sleep is a luxury our kind is rarely afforded.'' However, There is one line that is too over the top. Thurman is overlooking a room full of dieing people. She tells them they can all go but "Leave the limbs you've lost. They belong to me now.''
This is Tarantino's best movie. Pulp Fiction was unique, but terribly overrated. Some of it just did not make sense. In Kill Bill, he changes styles and moods faster than Madonna. Yet it all works to create an amazing film.
Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Volume 1.
I don't know if my opinion would be different had I seen the Kill Bill movies in chronological order, but having seen Volume 2 before seeing Volume 1, I found that Volume 2 was the better film. While both films are completely over the top, Vol. 2 is the one more grounded in character. Vol. 1 is all about the action. What might have made both the movies even better (which is saying something since they're both 4 star movies) is if the action had been spread out more over both of them.
One of my few complaints about Vol. 2 was that its ending felt slightly anti-climatic. Now I see that the climax I was expecting already happened at the end of Vol. 1 when the Bride battled the Crazy-88s. Also, while on that scene, I find it ironic that Eric found Uma's line about the limbs being hers, to be over the top, yet he doesn't mention that the battle that took place before that line was spoken, was so completely over the top. I mean, all those swordsmen and not one of them thought to bring a gun? The whole movie is over the top, its just so entertaining that who cares?
Like Patrick, I found the moment when Copperhead's daughter comes home from school to find her mother and the Bride in the middle of a destroyed living room, to be funny. The humor lies in the total surrealism of the moment. Here you have this seeming soccer mom trying to hide the fact that she was once an international assassin, along with her mortal enemy doing the same. The following scene in the kitchen isn't funny, but the moment when the daughter walks into the living room most definitely is.
As I found to be the case with Vol. 2, it is Uma's performance that keeps the heightened realism in check. When all is said and done, Kill Bill is a superhero movie. The Bride is the first cinematic Super-Heroine. This makes for some great action, but why we care about her as a person is all because of Uma.
If they gave out Oscars fore sheer entertainment value, Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 would both deserve the top prize.
Photos © Copyright Miramax Films (2003)