Thurman exerts herself physically as the revenge-seeking Bride
in Quentin Tarantino's action masterpiece, 'Kill Bill, Vol.1.'
Bill, Vol. 1”
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino
Starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael
Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu, Michael Jai White, Chia Hui Liu,
Chiaki Kuriyama and Sonny Chiba
Opens wide Friday, Oct. 10
(out of four)
“Kill Bill, Vol. 1” in large part pays tribute to films
whose stories are pretty much nonexistent—and what there is
often creates disturbing, illogical messages in the name of impressive
action. But Tarantino loves these films with such pronounced energy
that he’s made a rather insane masterpiece of the genre.
Of course, this genre may not appeal to people who dislike the sight
of blood, guts and various detached body parts.
“Kill Bill” is an homage to grind-house films, which
played in rundown movie houses and showed an affection for martial
arts and gore. The films were violent, sometimes pornographic (not
the case with “Kill Bill”) exercises in exhibitionism.
Tarantino’s film opens with a scratched-up ShawScope title,
referencing the grind-house masters the Shaw Brothers. I couldn’t
begin to guess how much fake blood is used in the film, but it sprays
wildly with each decapitation and loss of a limb.
Tarantino tackles the action scenes with several different techniques—slow
motion, black-and-white photography (the giant final scene switches
into black and white, possibly to maintain an R rating), fancy photography
and trademark Tarantino soundtrack usage. If there’s not enough
cinema references in the main story, there’s even an animated
flashback sequence to a character’s traumatizing childhood
in the style of Japanese anime.
The film follows the revenge genre, in which the hero or heroine
avenges the wrongs done to him or her by killing many, many wrongdoers.
Uma Thurman, who conceived the film with Tarantino while shooting
“Pulp Fiction,” plays a character known only as The
Bride (her name is bleeped out on the rare occasions that it’s
There’s not much to the story. For some reason, the Deadly
Viper Assassination Squad, led by Bill (David Carradine) and includes
Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), O-Ren Ishi (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green
(Vivica A. Fox) killed The Bride’s (its former member) wedding
party and unborn child on her wedding night. As for The Bride, Bill
shoots her in the head in the opening sequence, prompting one of
those classic Tarantino music cues: “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot
But she doesn’t die—and wakes from her coma four years
later, thirsty for revenge. And so the carnage begins in cleverly
set action scenes. The opening scene takes place in the suburban
home of one of the squad members, who is married and has a young
daughter. The fight goes on hold when the girl’s school bus
pulls up in front of the house.
Tarantino’s postmodern sense of humor prevails throughout,
such as in an airplane scene, which includes cheap stock exterior
footage and people in their seats with their deadly swords next
to them. And the proverb about revenge on the opening title card
The most missed element from Tarantino’s past films is the
dialogue, which there isn’t much room for in the barrage of
action. One of the film’s few quiet moments is also one of
its best, featuring an excellent performance by Sonny Chiba as a
sword maker whom The Bride travels to Japan to meet.
Thurman works as hard as any actress this year as she kicks, jumps
and punches in almost every scene. While there isn’t much
typical drama, she does well with what she has and adds dimension
to her character, sometimes looking completely terrified despite
The Bride’s amazing stamina and killing skills.
This dimension helps bring up the ultimate conflict of the revenge
film: Is it really worth all the killing? Some revenge films feature
exploitative rape scenes and follow them with lots of graphic violence.
In “Kill Bill, Vol. 1,” none of the scenes are done
in ways that exploit the actors, but they are done in ways that
might make people with aversions to violence vomit. But for those
who relish the style, this will be a great cinematic treat. Whether
or not there’s more to it can’t be determined until
the second half of the film comes out.
As the title suggests, the film was too long (about three hours
and 20 minutes) for Miramax Films to release in one sitting and
ends with a cliffhanger to “Kill Bill, Vol. 2,” due
out in February. This device works well because the final action
sequence lasts about 45 minutes and feels like the climax to come
at the end. It’ll be nice to see what Tarantino came up with
to top it. Also, the sequence after Tarantino’s credit includes
a nice twist.
It’s difficult to determine exactly how strong the entire
work will be apart from its action sequences, which are undeniably
brilliant. In the second film, Tarantino may resolve the conflicts
of the revenge film or he may simply frolic in more gory action.
Either way, he’ll do it with enough enthusiasm to keep it
interesting and fun.