Review: ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’

Hell hath no fury like a Tarantino heroine scorned.

The Bride (Uma Thurman) has suffered the greatest of indignities. On her wedding day and while very pregnant, the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad arrived to kill her and her entire wedding party. The Bride was once one of them, but when she tried to break away, they tried to kill her. More than four years afterward, The Bride rises again to take her revenge upon all those who tried and failed to kill her that day, saving their leader for last: a man named Bill (David Carradine).

The king of film geeks and pop culture, Quentin Tarantino, has released his fourth film (half of it, anyway), and his style-as-substance oozes from every element of his imaginary universe, one shared and often co-opted by fellow writer/director Robert Rodriguez. Everyone who’s anyone still smokes Red Apple cigarettes, dines on Big Kahoona burgers, and flies Air-O airlines (where it’s still perfectly acceptable to keep your Samurai sword next to your seat in case of any in-flight assassination attempts). Nothing small happens in this reality, from Japanese mafia assassination teams (one called The Crazy 88’s) that appear from nowhere to severed limbs that gush gallons of blood. Amazingly, there never seems to be any cops around when all the violence goes down, and everyone uses the ‘F’ word as often as possible.

It’s a shame that the full version of this film ran so long that Miramax reportedly pressured the director to cut the film in half; so hopefully we’ll get the director’s cut on the DVD. Whether or not the first half was then re-edited to solidify that premise no one has said, but the first part concentrates upon and concludes itself with The Bride’s relationship with O-Ren (Lucy Lui). The Bride is working her way (cutting, specifically) through the ranks up to her former boss, and Lui’s character demanded plenty of time for The Bride to conclude that transaction. For this reason alone, Volume 1 holds up pretty well without seeing the not-yet-released sequel and rest of the film.

One notable departure is the beautifully animated telling of O-Ren’s backstory, rendered completely in Manga format: a cartoon with guns, violence, and death. The “blood geysers” seen later in the film seem to have been inspired by this sequence, or at the very least designed to mirror it to lend credibility to the film’s overall style. Of course, the film is presented out of sequence, almost as if the director takes pleasure in completely engrossing viewers in another part of the story only to jerk the rug out from under them and back onto the subject at hand (and he’s good at that, too).

Uma Thurman herself is credited for helping create the character she plays, and it’s a physically demanding role that she has thrown herself into. That, plus an all-star cast of characters to revenge herself upon, provides plenty of opportunity for Ms. Thurman to shine. Make no mistake; this is the bloodiest and most violent film that the writer/director has made to date and possibly of the last few years. It’s completely gratuitous and offensive to everyone, but fans of Tarantino wouldn’t have expected any less.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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