Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

(Release Date: October 10, 2003)

Quentin is Alive and Well and living in the Seventies!1/2

An over the top, cartoonish tribute to Seventies Martial Arts films!
But also an excellent movie in its own right!

The Bloody Good Critic!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

From the opening credits of Kill Bill Volume 1, Quentin Tarantino lets you know that you're in for an over the top 1970's exploitation-type action film. He begins it with an old-style snipe flashing with Brady Bunch color and trippy movements declaring "Our Feature Presentation." In true Tarantino style, the actual film starts in a gathering place where violence takes place to disgust some and titillate others. And in true Tarantino Style there is a temporal disjointedness that allows the audience to travel through time knowing things that the characters themselves don't know yet. And, yes, there's more blood in this movie than in Vlad the Impaler's wine cellar!

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This is the Japanese Poster... Nice, no?

Kneumsi is a Deadly Viper too... Codename: Bunny Rabbit!

Kill Bill is the story of "The Bride" (played with beauty, grace, skill and mind blowing menace by Uma Thurman)! In her day she was one of the scariest and most vicious members of a "Fox Force Five" like hit team known as the "Deadly Viper Assassination Squad!" When this "Black Mamba" (as she is called) gets pregnant and decides to marry, the remainder of the Squad (led by uber-villain Bill) goes after her, kills the wedding party, kills the minister and his wife and puts a bullet into the brain of the bride! She awakens from a Coma four years later atrophied and angry remembering everything (obviously no longer with child) and more bent on revenge than Hamlet on Speed in a John Woo film!

The rest... well, now that would be telling. You need to check this out! What I can say is that Tarantino has managed to make yet another film that is truly his and his alone with a lot of the familiar "Easer Eggs" we've come to expect from him. On the other hand, like Jackie Brown before this movie, Tarantino breaks new ground and is definitely not simply making Pulp Fiction Part 2.5 by any means! This revenge story is a heavy on the action homage to the kung-fu and Samurai films (no, not the same thing) of the seventies, and many of the same conceits you'd expect from something like that are here in full force, as is the now traditional Tarantino rapier wit with the dialogue and the violence. What separates this film from your standard exploitative action film is that this is an intentionally over-the-top send up of such movies with great acting, timing, directing, and (strangest of all) heart!

Tarantino as both writer and director seems to be that rare artistic perfectionist that covers all his bases. There are no cheap cop-outs here, nor are there any loose-ends that he didn't tie up (aside from the fact that this is a two-parter). From the pans of the camera to the fight choreography to the strange use of Black and White against a normally technicolorful film to the very music he chooses (now a character in and of itself in Tarantino films) he shows himself to be an original and thorough artist, who might not make the same kind of films that, say Orson Welles, or Ingmar Bergman might make, but he makes amazing celluloid. You might not like what he has to say, but you have to love the way he says it!

It's true that this film is the ultra-violence that the milk drinkers from A Clockwork Orange would consider merely ambient, and I have been the first one to decry humor based on death, but Tarantino handles this omnipresent aspect with another unique technique. It's as if Tarantino is rubbing the faces of his detractors in the blood here. Much like Johnny Depp's bed in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, impossible amounts of blood shoot in every direction like a sprinkler system filled with red wine (450 gallons of fake blood were reportedly used in this film). Strangely this actually serves to separate us from the action and distance us from the violence. Tarantino simultaneously gives us too much blood, and dares us to be disturbed by it. You can practically hear him laughing "Look this is impossible! It's too cartoonish to be real! How could you possibly take this seriously?"

Most notably, Tarantino actually experiments with a new and unproven ground for him: Japanimation! The entire back story of the Cottonmouth Viper O-Ren Ishii (lovely Lucy Liu) is told as a literal cartoon. It's well drawn and well executed, and its an effectively artistic telling of a horrific story (similar to Christopher Walken's Winaki-tale in Pulp Fiction with visual aids).

The acting here is really good, dramatic when need be, hilarious when need be, ironic when need be and naturally melodramatic when need be... and it's all intentional. In the first half of the film we don't see Bill's face at all, instead he's represented by David Carradine's calm and creepy voice. Similarly the not-oft-seen (yet) Budd (AKA SIDEWINDER) is Michael Madsen's tough yet sorrow-filled voice. We see him once or twice, but there's plenty of room for him to shine in the second half.

Vivica A. Fox is incredible as the Copperhead, and there's still time for more from her. Her battle with Uma's Black Mamba just has to be seen, not just for the action, but the great laughs!

Daryl Hannah lives! She's so ironically hilarious as Elle Driver/ California Mountain Snake that she's bound to be spoofed in the next Scary Movie. She's somewhat underused here, and has promise for her part to come up in the second half! If you don't get enough of her, she's in this month's Playboy!

Lucy Liu has some of the most screen time (not even counting the O-Ren Ishii animated segment), and she and her henchmen are amazing! That said, henchwoman GoGo (Chiaki Kuriyama) practically steals the show with her hot Catholic School Girl gone horribly wrong look. The Martial Arts here are as flawless as in The Matrix Reloaded, and not a little of it takes place under the view of the excellent Lucy Liu! She might scare you, but she's definitely going to crack you up!

In true Genre fashion, this movie does not simply end with a "To Be Continued" but with a huge surprise cliffhanger that shot both my eyebrows up like the fake blood from a stump in this film! I knew I'd be wanting to see the second one, but after that ending I was (and am) simply dying for the second half to come out. Argh! The wait is MURDER!

Four Point Five Stars out of Five for Kill Bill: Volume 1! This is the most fun movie I've seen in a long time, but it is overly violent and not for all tastes. In that the second film is not actually a sequel, but the second half of one movie, the second half might actually make this an even better movie! Tarantino's temporal displacement seen in all three of his previous films lends itself well to this two-part story, and Volume 2 just might have some earlier events. Make no mistake, Tarantino is a master and an artist, and I for one am blown away! This review is to be continued in my review for Kill Bill: Volume 2!

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Kill Bill: Vol. 1 reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for this site and for the Yellow and Black Jumpsuit he can no longer fit in to!!!
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