KILL BILL: VOLUME 1
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Before I get started, I want to clear one thing up because there appears to be a lot of confusion on the issue. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is not a movie. I know everywhere you look you're being told and sold that it is movie, or half a movie anyway, but let’s be honest. It's a celluloid version of a violent, martial arts compilation tape and as such, I must concede, it accomplishes the goals those tapes strive for: lots of fighting, maiming, killing and blood, blood, blood. It will be successful to those of you who rent and watch those tapes, although you should really look at some therapy if Kill Bill brings you enjoyment.
However, as a movie it's too much of mess for me to recommend it, a waste of time and misspent opportunity devoid of any merit. There's not much in the way of plot, dialogue or characterization. The film starts out with the Bride, Uma Thurman, severely beaten and injured as she begs the father of her unborn child for her life and the life of their baby. This scene should go over real well in Modesto. She wakes up from a coma four years later, and begins to seek revenge on all those responsible. She kills two people on her Death List leaving three to go in Part 2. That’s about it.
I know nothing about the Bride other than she was an assassin too, so why I should sympathize with her is beyond me. Quentin seems to think that to identify and root for the Bride all we need are the gratuitous “Laci Peterson” sequences and learning that while in the hospital the Bride has been raped repeatedly during her coma. How is that characterization? The most back-story we get on any character is Lucy Lui’s O-Ren Ishii, which takes place over the course of a lengthy and extremely graphic anime sequence, but that only shows us how she became an orphan and later exacted revenge. That’s an A&E Biography compared to what we learn about the Bride. She is so poorly created that she isn’t a woman except in physical appearance. There is nothing about her character that speaks to her being a female or sheds any light of understanding on the female psyche.
Some plot choices were bad as well. Bill sends Elle Driver, Daryl Hannah, to the hospital to kill the comatose Bride. Elle’s such an odd choice to sneak in as a nurse because the little red cross on her white eye patch, while it admittedly looks cool, makes her stand out. It's supposed to be a stealth mission evidenced by Elle bringing some concoction that needs to be inserted into the Bride's I.V. tubes rather than just smothering the Bride with a pillow. Sending Vernita Green, Vivica Fox, would have been the smarter choice. A black woman as a nurse is a much more likely sight in a hospital. Bill changes his mind about killing the Bride for no good reason, so there was no reason for this scene. There’s another sequence that’s very lengthy and boring where the Bride goes to see a master swordsman and he creates a special blade for her to use. Not much worth showing took place. She showed up, he made the sword and then she left. I’ll skip over the nonsensical scene where the Bride has no use of her legs after the years in a coma, which is perfectly believable, yet somehow still has amazing strength in and use of her arms.
Quentin’s writing skills used to be his strongest talent, so he’s either lost the ability to craft good screenplays or he’s creating a bad plot with very bad dialogue on purpose. But to what end? For what reason? There’s not even clever or memorable dialogue in this half-movie. Have you heard anyone quoting lines from Kill Bill? If you’ve seen it, can you think of any cool verbal exchanges? To paraphrase Quentin’s earlier work, this movie is “too close to Mr. Shit.”
I understand Quentin taking his love for Hong Kong action and Blaxploitation and creating yet another homage to the films of his youth. However, in his desire to accurately recreate those films, he forgets what makes them so enjoyable to the film geek in us all. Yes, those films were truly bad; badly acted, badly written and badly put together, but for most of them it was not intentional. We laughed at their seemingly lack of awareness as to the limits of their talent; nevertheless, there was also a smattering of respect because somehow they had completed a film and got you to watch it. A good movie that crosses genres is what Quentin should have strived for and it could have been a lot of fun instead of the hodgepodge of scenes that he presented.
Another issue I have is Quentin’s constant need for narratives to not be told in linear time. It’s baffling unless he’s an alien from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five. It adds nothing extra to the story. The only thing gained is that after the Bride kills Vernita, the truck the Bride drives off in has the words “Pussy Wagon” written on the tailgate in large pink letters. We discover later how she ended up in the truck, but did we get anything more than if we had seen the Bride when she first approaches the truck? Maybe Quentin distracts us with false questions so we don’t focus on the large holes in the plot that I could drive a Hummer through. Sorry, still getting over the Recall.
Because of the half-movie’s graphic nature, I should point out that I’m not some anti-violence prude, although I don’t know how this movie got an R instead of an NC-17 which it deserved. There’s plenty of mindless violence I enjoy whether it’s Brawlin’ Broads on pay-per-view, the TV show Jackass and even selected highlights from this summer’s big hit, The War in Iraq. But as a movie, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a horrible, self-indulgent, practical joke played on the film-going public and its investors. It is one more piece of evidence pointing to the slow decline of Quentin Tarantino’s movie-making skills. He peaked with Reservoir Dogs and has gone down hill ever since. When Miramax realized the mess they had when Kill Bill got to post-production, they came up with the idea of making it two films in an attempt recoup the money already spent and to be able to stave off critics by having the “wait until you see Vol. 2” excuse. But can anything be revealed in Vol. 2 that will justify the movie beeping out every mention of the Bride’s real name?
The only elements I enjoyed were the 5,6,7,8's, a rockin’ Japanese garage band that should be on the radio alongside bands like The White Stripes, The Hives, et.al. The scene where snow lightly falls before Ishi and beep (annoying, huh?) fight. It looked fantastic. One of the best moments of cinematography I’ve seen in quite a while, but by this time the movie had already lost my interest. And lastly, how good Vivica's ass looked in those tight pants when she fought beep. Mmmmmm-mm. I know that’s a rather crude comment, but if that sentence bothered you, then there’s no way you’ll enjoy what’s in the movie.
I had the choice of watching Kill Bill or going to a casino where my wife and I probably would have lost at least $100.00 at the craps and blackjack table. Upon reflection that now appears to have been better the choice rather than the time and aggravation spent on this half-movie. The good news is we bought tickets for School of Rock and walked into Kill Bill (take that, Harvey) so I’m not being played the sucker and paying twice to see both halves of this movie. That’s assuming I even go see Vol. 2, which currently is doubtful.