Kill Bill (Volume 1)

As someone who’s loved Quentin Tarantino’s movies ever since Reservoir Dogs I was ecstatic when I found out Kill Bill would be made.

On a side note, I happen to think Reservoir Dogs was named after the dog that jumps in the reservoir in Body Double, rather than the normal explanation that he couldn’t pronounce the name of the movie Au revoir les enfants and liked the sound of his mispronunciation.

As for Kill Bill, the movie did not disappoint. In fact, it’s terrific. Tarantino even managed to work in his trademark “trunk shot” and a reference to Red Apple cigarettes.

In a way I’m relieved. After making both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction — a classic by any measure — I knew Tarantino was not a flash-in-the-pan and I was disappointed with Jackie Brown. I waited three years after Pulp Fiction for another Tarantino movie and Jackie Brown just didn’t deliver. The story wasn’t very interesting, the pervasive use of the N-word — which worked hilariously in Pulp Fiction — seemed gratuitous and I’ve never been all that excited about blaxploitation movies anyway. If you are interested in blaxploitation movies, I suggest Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song, which is the best of that genre and a good movie in its own right.

The story for Kill Bill was thought up by Tarantino and Uma Thurman during the filming of Pulp Fiction. In fact, the story credit at the end of the movie reads “by Q & U”, no doubt meaning Quentin and Uma. The story allows Tarantino to have his fun with genre pictures — martial arts movies, in this case — while telling a compelling story in the process. Uma is excellent and believable as “The Bride”, even when she is killing people by the dozens using a specially-crafted sword. The proof of her excellence in this movie is that I forgot how gorgeous she is and focused on her character. Difficult to do, to put it mildly.

The story is about revenge against a group that “The Bride” had abandoned to get married. They attempt to kill her during her wedding, while she’s pregnant, but she goes into a four-year coma. She awakes thinking only of revenge.

The scene where she wakes up manages to be revealing, disgusting and funny at the same time. Her immediate thoughts upon waking are about revenge. Her immediate situation is repugnant — let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be a woman trapped in a coma at the hospital in question. The situation is funny, ultimately, because the perpetrators get what they deserve.

Uma ends up driving around the States in a yellow truck called the “Pussy Wagon”. The story of the truck is hilarious and everybody laughed when it showed up. Most of the action happens in Japan and is a bloodbath from start to finish. Tarantino diminishes the gore by showing much of it in black and white and by using a Japanese anime sequence, which goes over quite well. It reminded me of how Scorsese painted the bloody final sequence of Taxi Driver in a red hue to diminish the gore, no doubt to avoid an “X” rating or what would be an NC-17 rating today. I suspect the black and white is used in Kill Bill for the same reason.

You might be asking yourself, “How could Uma defeat 88 fighters in one sequence?”. I was reminded of the line in The Blues Brothers where the one guy says “You’re gonna look pretty funny tryin’ to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin’ teeth!”. Try fighting with no limbs.

I can’t wait for Volume 2 in February.

9/10

The Guardian’s review contains this little gem: Uma takes her sword into the plane as carry-on, and actually has it propped insouciantly next to her seat! Airport security presumably confiscated her tweezers and manicure scissors.

The NYT review lists the following to describe the R rating: It has shootings, stabbings, beatings, beheadings, disembowelings, amputations, mutilations, eye-gougings, slicings, choppings, bitings and a spanking. Also some naughty words.

You’ve been warned!!

UPDATE: John Hawkins has a good review of the movie as well.

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