Kill Bill Volume 1

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Kill Bill -- Start With the Phone Bill, then the Power Bill...

Oct 14, 2003 (Updated Oct 18, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Super action, outrageous camera angles, Japanese atmosphere, the score.

Cons:Not for everyone. Some exaggeratedly slow parts.

The Bottom Line: Kill Bill just leveled the competition, yo.


Giving Kill Bill a non-recommendation would be about as useful as a vegetarian giving KFC the same. Whether you love or hate the film, chances are that's something you already know whether you've actually seen it or not. Kill Bill sets out to give us a straight-up action flick without all the Reloaded "mumbo jumbo", without all the Terminator time-travel complications, without the Crouching Tiger love story. I don't know the first thing about the motives behind the film, Quentin's directing habits (well, maybe some of those), or any of the references to other films. So if you're a "dummy" like me, would you still enjoy Kill Bill? Well, let's see...

You already know this is the most violent film in the world, right? Well, let's put that myth to rest. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan still beats all of Kill Bill in terms of being disturbing, if for no other reason than the unignorable fact that it is rooted in reality, while Kill Bill is pure nostalgic fantasy. It's so much fantasy though that, either by using liberal quantities of Hawaiian Punch or just doing something hilarious, it never allows you to forget that it is fantasy. On second thought, God help anyone who, you know, fantasizes about this stuff.

Quentin Tarantino always seems to be in an altered (but uninhibited) state of consciousness, and with films such as this, he is merely passing the proverbial bong. This is not to say that the film is devoid of a lucid story, but the means by which that story is told take the audience to places far away from their plush seats and the scent of buttered popcorn. I was far away enough that when Uma got on the motorcycle, I didn't think of Trinity once. (A momentary flashback of Bruce Lee popped to mind, though...)

Uma Thurman takes the honors of gracing the opening shot (it's one hell of a shot allright), but not before we are treated to Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang - My Baby Shot Me Down". She sings it almost as if she were completely disaffected by the "shooting", but in a way it's kind of appropriate to the storyline in which the shooting victim is left in a coma for four years. Anyway, back to that opening shot -- sensitive to the audience's want of a buildup, Q-dawg opts for a black and white shot, of only Uma's face after she has just had the crap kicked out of her (you don't see much of that). The blood seems more like oil in the black and white, and gives us one last chance (though this is only the beginning) to be blissfully ignorant and pretend like we're not really seeing what we are seeing. It is a disturbing shot, especially when Bill reaches in with a cloth to wipe some of the blood away, claiming that he is not a sadist. Suddenly, the gunshot fires and the screen goes black. Not since Memento have I seen an opening so perturbing, though this opening may very well have been inspired by Memento.

"Revenge is not a straight line, it is a forest..."
Much like the movie, I'd say. Kill Bill takes several leaps through time, but I was surprised how easy it was to follow. Rather than diverting your attention with riddles and plot mysteries to think about, the film simply slaps down the story and lets the clutch out. Sure, you don't know all the how's and why's about it, but any fan of this particular type of film knows to trust that this will all be revealed in good time (or in Part 2). Within the first ten minutes, Uma (The Bride) is already at the house of the first b*tch, brandishing a knife. It's not your typical knife fight, though. It is interrupted by the arrival of the chick's four-year old daughter and a sucker punch that actually had me anticipating a scene at 2:30 in the morning. Can't believe I fell for it.

Kill Bill swings between relentless action and some of the slowest scenes in the history of mankind. The contrast is startling. Uma spends over a minute just deciding which sword she wants in the Okinawan guy's house, she spends about a minute just trying to wiggle her big toe, and there are breaks that take as long as 40-50 seconds in the middle of some fights, where the two fighters simply glare at each other. But you know what they say, the hunt is sweeter than the kill. It's not too much of a problem, so long as you are able to control the voices in your head that are screaming "Okay, get on with it already!", even though that's not REALLY what you think; it's just what you know you "should" be thinking. (Am I the only one who suffers from this?)

The ever-lauded anime sequence is still the part that sticks in my head the most. It shows us the backstory behind one of the villains, and it is both strong and sad enough to actually generate sympathy for that character. It's not the overpolished, flawless Pixar animation we're growing dangerously accustomed to -- it's raw, it's expressive, it's bloody bloody, and it's very very disturbing. Mom, I know you're reading. This is definitely NOT your movie!

Then there's the score. Borrowed from "Ironside", "White Lightning", "Green Hornet" and others, the music never fails to fit the atmosphere. One exception would be the final showdown between The Bride and Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu), taking place in a serene, snowy field. Here, the music is deliberately obnoxious but very cool. As memory serves, it's like upbeat Japanese music with a whole lot of trumpets. Maybe it doesn't fit the atmosphere, but it sure as hell fits the mood.

This isn't exactly my "kind" of movie, but I was pretty impressed considering what I expected. Some of the camera shots are absolutely insane, and the last three seconds will more than likely elicit a collective gasp if your crowd is big enough.

For those who are onto the fact that I had rated this movie five stars before, a thought occurred to me. This is exactly the kind of movie that I enjoy while I'm watching it, but that I pass up when I see it on the DVD shelf six months later. Weird, huh.


Recommend this product? Yes

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