Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

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The thing I love about Quentin Tarantino’s films are that they are all so different, yet also so distinctively his. All of his films have the same key aspects, despite what genre they happen to be from. Kill Bill is no different, if anything it is more impressive because Tarantino has managed to cram several different genres into this film about a former assassin and her bloody revenge against the former teammates who tried to murder her. Kill Bill was originally intended to be released as one film, but during editing, Tarantino realised his vision would take upwards of four hours to do the story justice. He decided to release the movie in two parts a few months apart from each other. This is the first volume of Kill Bill, and the more enjoyable one, in my opinion.

Tarantino’s regular muse, Uma Thurman, plays the Bride. On her wedding day, her former lover/employer turns up with his crew and kills the whole party, including the priest, the chapel piano player (played by another Tarantino regular, Samuel L. Jackson), and the Bride’s unborn child. Originally thought dead, the Bride ends up in a coma. When she awakes four years later, she has one thing on her mind: revenge. She hunts down the people responsible one by one, starting with the now head of a Japanese crime gang, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). Next on her list is Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), who is now a housewife living in suburbia. With two down on her list, the Bride moves on to the remaining members of Bill’s (David Caradine) crew, but we have to wait until volume two to see the outcome.

I really like this film. Tarantino makes films that he is so passionate about and it is really hard not to feed off his passion when you are watching the films. The fact they are damn entertaining also helps. This film is unlike anything Tarantino had attempted before, and I really do commend him for that. He could so easily just keep making carbon copies of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, which would probably still be great films and make money. But he takes these risks by diving head first into something he has always wanted to try. Even after Kill Bill was complete, Tarantino made a World War Two film like only he could, and followed it up with an homage to 50s western movies. I love that he’s willing to push himself as a filmmaker and not play it safe like so many would be tempted to do.

Tarantino has said that Kill Bill was inspired by old Chinese films like the Seven Samurai, and you can see the influence here. I really loved how there was a whole backstory devoted to how the Bride got her sword. It is a great sequence, and makes you appreciate it even more when she is slicing O-Ren Ishii’s thugs to shreds, in what is one of the most entertaining fight sequences I can remember seeing on screen.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a fun homage to Chinese cinema, told through the distinctive eye of Quentin Tarantino. I am not sure any director could make a film like this other than him, although I am sure plenty will try.

Rating: A-

Nobody does a revenge film like Quentin Tarantino. While he’s gone over the territory twice in recent years with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Kill Bill was his original tale of hard earned retribution.

It’s difficult to talk about Kill Bill: Vol. 1 without talking about Vol. 2. The concept was originally conceived as a single film, but was split into two due to a four hour runtime. I’ll try to keep this discussion about Vol. 1 alone, but will say this about the two: after our latest re-watching, I’ve decided I like Vol. 2 more than Vol. 1.

I didn’t always feel this way. I used to absolutely love Vol. 1, and while I still enjoy it immensely, I just feel it’s the weaker of the two films. My primary reasoning for this is that this movie feels a lot like a style over substance venture. In a way this makes sense. This film is merely the setup, and the second the thrilling conclusion. But it bothers me that almost all the of backstory for “The Bride”(Uma Thurman) is saved for the second film. In fact, most of this movie isn’t even about our sword wielding heroine– it’s actually the story of one her nemeses, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).

While I enjoyed the Ishii story, it only reinforces my view that Vol. 1 is all about Tarantino experimenting with different visual styles rather than telling a story. None of the other members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad get as much time devoted to telling their story. It seems the only reason we are presented with Ishii’s rise to power is to give the Bride a reason to travel to Japan (other than commissioning some Hattori Hanzō steel) so Tarantino can pay tribute to his favorite kung fu films. And it’s not that the results aren’t visually stunning, I just feel that it makes the overall story being told very lopsided.

As I’ve mentioned, Tarantino is playing with a variety of visuals here. He’s one of the few directors able to mix elements from disparate genres and create a film that doesn’t feel choppy or fragmented. I especially like the final action sequences where the Bride fights O-Ren’s Yakuza army, the Crazy 88, and then O-Ren herself. The results are gorgeous, provided copious amounts of blood don’t bother you.

Rating: B

One thought on “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

  1. Pingback: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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