KILL BILL, VOLUMNE ONE (2003)
AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING (2.5 out of 5 Rating)!
After almost four years on hiatus, Quetin Tarantino returns with his fourth film as director in Kill Bill Volume One. Split into two pictures for Tarantino's wish to keep the entire film uncut despite Miramax's urging, this first film of two is undeniably "Tarantino" which is sure to please die hard fans of the independant director. In truth, Kill Bill is a jumble of classic action/martial arts film influences packaged as contemporary filmmaking.
Kill Bill follows the tradition of the martial arts action film, albeit a film which once again features Tarantino's merging of late era film styles and modern techniques. Uma Thurman plays the role of The Bride (her name remains unknown...occasionally masked with audio censor bleeps), a former assassion who, while pregnant, is nearly murdered on her wedding day. Four years after the unhappiest day of her life, The Bride wakes from her coma and begins a blood-splattered journey of revenge upon those who nearly killed her, most of whom are former associates. David Carradine stars as the ominous and as yet unseen assassin leader Bill, Lucy Lui plays assassin and Tokyo mafia queen O-Ren Ishii, and Vivica A. Fox plays killer-turned-housewife Vernita Green.
Once one watches the film, there is little left to guess when asking “What is Kill Bill?” The film is an homage to the martial arts action film genre...and it shows. While some audiences may be lost, it's hard not to recognize the obvious lineage of Kill Bill from kung fu films of the 1970's to fast paced anime (japanese animation). Indeed, Tarantino is so obvious with the inspiration for Kill Bill, a sequence by japanese anime company Production I.G. (Ghost in The Shell, Blood The Last Vampire) is dropped into the middle of the film, jarringly injecting the childhood history of O-Ren's character in an animated gore-fest.
To say Kill Bill is violent and graphic is to understate the presentation, but the film's violence is so outrageous and over-the-top, it's comical. In one of the movie's dud scenes, the last of a few dozen vanquished foes falls from the second floor only to land in a pool filled with blood (get it...blood-bath...uh yeah). Limbs are severed regularly, at which point entire septic tanks of blood spew from the dismembered victims like a fire hose. The influence for these blood fountains is clearly derived from stylized action animes and asian kung fu/crime films, but these displays are ridiculously silly rather than an entertaining homage. The plot, such as it is, grabs for as much style as it can get, but the film never makes any pretense. If you've seen the trailer, you'll understand Kill Bill is action/revenge flick and it takes no prisoners.
Kill Bill is enjoyable because of its vibrant and sympathetic heroine played wonderfully stoic and emphatically emotional by Thurman. The deadly deeds done by Thurman's Bride are brilliantly played against the terrible tragedies she has suffered. The action present in Kill Bill is a fan's dream, culminating the great anticipation of the preceeding scenes into kinetically powerful duels. While the many fights of the film are again derivative of the genre (think Hong Kong wire work), they indeed feel beautifully flawless and wildly chaotic at the same time.
The problem with Kill Bill is its own nature as an adulation to the martial arts/action genre. Kill Bill is so flashy, with homages so flaunting (that yellow jumpsuit is a dead give away to Bruce Lee in Game of Death), the film is made paltry by the fan boy-esque style. Most of the cast is given so little to work with that the film must indulge in grandstanding to craft the characterizations. Even Tarantino's normally interesting retro influences and vintage musical scores are overplayed here, escalating the films already tacky palette. Kill Bill may be a film that knows what it is and what it's meant to be, but that doesn't excuse its faults. Expect a violent, pedantic, post-modern homage to kung fu films and you'll enjoy Kill Bill. Expect any more, you can expect to feel cheated.
An average action movie made notable by the direction of retro violence king Quentin Tarantino. Knock yourself out.