Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume One
Whether you enjoy Quentin Tarantino's latest foray into filmmaking,
Kill Bill, is going to depend a lot on what you bring into it. It is not like his other films, yet, at the same time, it is a lot like them.
Kill Bill is the story of "The Bride," aka "Black Mamba" (Uma Thurman). After a long tenure with the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS, and an obvious reference to the Fox Force Five from Pulp Fiction), she attempts to leave, settle down, and have a normal life. But the day of her wedding to an unnamed and unseen groom, the entire wedding party is wiped out by the remaining members of the squad. Left for dead, she wakes up four years later in a hospital room, having been in a coma.
After a minor rehabilitation period in the back of a truck, she cool-mindedly sets out to destroy the remaining four members of the squad--Vernita Green, aka "Copperhead" (Vivica A. Fox); O-Ren Ishii, aka "Cottonmouth" (Lucy Liu); Budd, aka "Sidewinder" (Michael Madsen); Elle Driver, aka "California Mountain Snake" (Daryl Hannah); and their leader, Bill (David Carradine, whose face is never seen--at least not in
When I say that
Kill Bill is not like Tarantino's other films, I mean that while
Pulp Fiction, and
Jackie Brown (and
From Dusk Till Dawn and
True Romance, if you want to be picky about it) were inspired by all the grindhouse, kung fu films, and spaghetti Westerns (a tradition proudly carried forth by his buddy Robert Rodriguez in his "tortilla Western"
El Mariachi series) that Quentin watched during his days as a video store clerk,
Kill Bill is one of those films.
Therefore, prior familiarity with this genre of films is (almost) necessary. I only say almost because my familiarity is minimal but I was still able to enjoy
Kill Bill on its own merits, even while knowing that I was no doubt missing out on some subtle (or not-so-subtle) references. Of course, fans know that Quentin is a big fan of films from the 1970s, and from the beginning, there are references that anyone who has read the press surrounding the release of the film will get, like the "Feature Presentation" and "Filmed in Shaw Scope" cards at the beginning, as well as the Ennio Morricone liberally slathered all over the score.
But there's so much I want to say, so let's get on with it.
Visually, the movie is a feast. Tarantino uses every trick in the book to make
Kill Bill look beautiful. Moving cameras, sets and backdrops, costumes--all these come together to give the film a certain feel. The humor is a big part of it, too. The massive amounts of blood spilled (450 gallons, according to one source) is done in such a way that it absolutely cannot be taken seriously. I mean, when was the last time you saw a severed limb spurt like it was coming from a garden hose attachment--all circular and pinprick sprays? The anime was done well and buffered some of the more seedy elements of the film. (For some reason, Tarantino feels the need to have some sort of rape in his films nowadays, but the act is never shown explicitly and the perpetrator is always punished. Pedophilia is given a similar treatment in this sequence.)
But the most attractive part of this movie is the fact that all the major roles are played by women! (To be chauvinist for a moment, I'd just like to say, "Badass chicks with swords! How sexy is that?!") Uma rocks the katana like I've never seen before--all that training really paid off--and this is by far Lucy Liu's best role ever--although that's not really saying much, given the lack of opportunity she has had. But, anyway, watching her in that board meeting was like seeing a new quirk from an old friend--surprising and good. Not all the acting is stellar--Vivica A. Fox is a particular let down, but I think that probably had a lot to do with the lines she was given. So, I guess we'll pin that one on the writer.
The story is minimal, but it's all just a hook to hang the revenge motif on. "The Bride" gets attempted-murdered and goes out to kill everyone involved. The rest is just the enaction of that plot. There is the usual Tarantino-esque nonlinear storytelling (pay attention to who's been marked off the "Death List Five") and probably will require multiple viewings to catch all the references, but, all in all
Kill Bill: Volume One is a rollercoaster ride of a movie with a lot to offer fans and newcomers with either previous knowledge or open minds.
Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume Two