Film Reviews

KILL BILL: VOL. 1

By • Oct 10th, 2003 •

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Miramax Films / A Band Apart
Running time — 112 minutes / MPAA rating: R

I’ve learned more about the story from the trailer. Apparently, the decision to split KILL BILL into two films happened after the completion of the trailer.

KILL BILL VOL. 1 works perfectly for me. The brilliant excess comes to a close with a neat twist and blunt anticipation for the finale.

The Bride, aka Black Mamba (Uma Thurman) narrates the film. We don’t know why or who she is marrying in a church shack in Texas. All we know is that she gets a gun to the head and attempts to tell Bill (voice of David Carradine) that the baby is his. Now, after four years in a coma, she awakens and seeks revenge.

The Bride was a member of Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. The other members are Vernita Green, aka Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox), now a housewife and mother, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), the Chinese-Japanese-American boss of the Tokyo yakuza, one-eyed Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hannah), and Budd/Sidewinder (Michael Madsen).

In Vol. 1, The Bride goes after ex-Vipers Vernita Green and O-Ren Ishii. Elle Driver and Budd will, along with Bill, suffer the penalties of payback in Vol. 2. They will be waiting for her.

Like our first back-of-the-head images of the memorable Marcellus (Ving Rhames) in PULP FICTION, we only see Bill’s hands clutching a walking stick. We only hear his pimp talk.

Will Bill pimp talk Budd?

With KILL BILL we enter Tarantino’s world and it is meticulously handcrafted. This film is so finely tuned and lovingly made that there is not a fabric fold that does not have his Vermeer touch. Every image is gorgeously framed and a statement of fact: This is all about loving filmmaking and loving every character.

Each character is given the decorous attention that The Bride gets. There are no minor characters or supporting players to make the star look good. Every character can command a fascinating storyline. What is on display is Tarantino’s extravagant admiration for a particular genre – Asian action “grindhouse” B-movies – and lavishing it with talent and slavish devotion.

What we felt about PULP FICTION, Tarantino has eclipsed. If you don’t like blood splattering, be advised to stay home. Tarantino approaches the blood letting in a novel way. It’s the garden-hose-on-high blast of blood. It gives the blood flow a surreal appearance and moves it into cartoon violence. The mutilation is another thing altogether. A strong, ruthless woman hacking off limbs and announcing the body parts belong to her. Any need here for Freud?

All the women are seething with anger. It is female cruelty as art form.

The women in KILL BILL embody my favorite Hindu goddess – who graces my desk – Kali The Destroyer.

At the center of Tarantino’s world is the vicious, cold-hearted Bride. Well, at least she has a good reason to be resentful. Tarantino has fashioned a female warrior with a primordial purpose sprung directly from the Reptilian (or R-complex) brain: Revenge. She is a zealot walking straight into the lion’s den without one moment of fear or apprehension. There is no doubt in The Bride’s mind. She is also noble. When she kills Vernita Green The Bride tells her young daughter that, when she grows up and wants revenge, she will be waiting. It’s the assassin’s code of honor.

Ah, Lucy Liu. After her role in PAYBACK, she has entered the sex icon domain. Is there a director who does not want to use her after that stunning turn as a dominatrix? Tarantino surrounds The Bride with females who are just as lethal, exotic, and even more exciting. O-Ren Ishii is flanked by two mesmerizing characters: Her lawyer, Sophie Fatale (Julie Dreyfus) and a teenage bodyguard. I adored the teenager. Yeah, I loved Vincent Vega, but now I want an entire movie about this kid.

The production is gorgeous. The anime episode is wonderful. The opening scene between Vernita Green and The Bride jumpstarts the movie. Fox is mean. Fox is mad and sweating with fury. Her nostrils throb. Tarantino, famously, resurrects Daryl Hannah’s career and liberates her from Really Bad Movie Hell. She’s older, harder, and tougher than Uma. She is the perfect foil with a flair for clever eye patches. Then comes Liu with a face that, when still, expresses coldness and emotionless resolve. She scared me.

Tarantino has created monumental female characters and delivers the goods as promised.


Credits:
Writer-director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Executive producers: Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Erica Steinberg
Director of photography: Robert Richardson
Production designers: Yohei Tanada, David Wasco
Martial arts adviser: Yuen Wo-Ping
Music: RZA
Fight choreographer: Sonny Chiba
Anime sequence: Production I.G
Costume designers: Kumiko Ogawa, Catherine Marie Thomas
Editor: Sally Menke

Cast:
The Bride/Black Mamba: Uma Thurman
O-Ren Ishii/Cottonmouth: Lucy Liu
Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake: Daryl Hannah
Vernita Green/Copperhead: Vivica A. Fox
Sheriff: Michael Parks
Hattori Hanzo: Sonny Chiba
Go Go Yubari: Chiaki Kuriyama
Sophie Fatale: Julie Dreyfus
Johnny Mo: Gordon Liu
Budd/Sidewinder: Michael Madsen

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