|Kill Bill Vol. 1|
It's the story of the Bride (Thurman), a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who was betrayed by her colleagues and left for dead. Now after awaking from a four-year coma, she's compiled a revenge list, leading up to the top Viper Bill (Carradine). As one character says, "Revenge is never a straight line," and the tale is told out of sequence as the Bride first confronts fellow-Viper Vernita Green (Fox) at home in California and then ex-Viper O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), who's now a Tokyo yakuza boss. In between, we see the Bride's earlier awakening and her battle for survival, including a glimpse of another Viper, the one-eyed Elle Driver (Hannah).
Tarantino's obvious influence here is Chinese grindhouse cinema, those ultra-violent 1970s kung fu movies. But he also weaves in imagery, sounds and even emotion from Italian mafia movies, spaghetti Westerns and Japanese samurai epics. Interestingly, it all feels utterly seamless--these various elements blend together perfectly. And the characters are vivid enough to rise above his cinematic nerdiness! Thurman is shockingly good in the role, which is insanely physical but also powerfully raw and emotional. The other characters are less defined, but contribute to the overall texture, especially the multi-cultural aspect. Liu's O-Ren Ishii is especially interesting because of a gorgeously animated flashback that tells us how she became the ruthless killing machine she is. This makes her much more intriguing as a foe, and adds to her image as a Batman-type villain with a quirky persona, a groovy lair, a torturous past and masked minions galore (88 of them, to be precise).
In many ways this feels like the first real Tarantino film--it's such an amazing blend of old movie styles that his first three films seem almost quaint by comparison. He directs the film with a finesse and style that keep it looking great on screen while holding our interest even when things get horrifically violent. Yuen Woo-ping's fight choreography is fantastic--rough and desperate, edgy and inventive. The offbeat musical choices work wonderfully (Nancy Sinatra singing Sony Bono's Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down over the title credits is a stroke of genius). The only missteps are an inexplicable shift to black and white for the climactic moment and the fact that the film ends just as the story really gets going. But Tarantino even handles the cliffhanger with style and wit, dropping one last bit of vital information before he lets us go. For now.
dir-scr Quentin Tarantino|
with Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba, Chiaki Kuriyama, Julie Dreyfus, Michael Bowen, Michael Parks, Gordon Liu
release US/UK 10.Oct.03
Tougher than she looks: Thurman takes on Liu (below) and her minions (above).
DS, London: In five words, "Breathtaking, derivative, stylish, exhausting, cliffhanger!" (11.Sep.03)
Joseph Tucker, New Orleans: "This is a bizarre film, but it is brilliant in its own way. Visually, the film is excellent; you will never take your eyes off the screen. This is one of the most violent films to ever grace the screen, in which there are many decapitations, body parts chopped off, and gallons of spurting blood in the way of classic samurai films and Japanese animation. The blood just does not spray out for a second; Tarantino unleashes it like a fire hose. The fight choreography by Yuen Wo-ping also complements the film with authenticity and excitement. The black and white sequences during the House of Blue Leaves scenes are essential, and the use of music is outstanding. All of the characters are bad, evil people, so it is not that easy to become a cheerleader for The Bride, even though she is the supposed hero. Uma Thurman is a gracious beauty that is commanding as The Bride; she really rocks in this role. Lucy Liu delivers a slithering performance in one of her best roles as the powerful O-Ren Ishii. Other actors make appearances with their characters, but they will be seen more in Vol 2. Tarantino himself calls this film a 'duck press' of all the knowledge that he has absorbed from grindhouse cinema in the past 35 years. Though a little wide and over the top, it is still very admirable." (11.Oct.03)