The fourth film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The backstory: So there's this elite cadre of hitmen, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS), and yes, this is essentially an infinitesimally less campy version of the "Foxforce Five" premise from Pulp Fiction. One of them, Uma Thurman, is gunned down on her wedding day by the rest. But she lives to wreak revenge.

So the plot is, she has a list of five people to kill. She finds them. She kills them. That's it. That's the whole movie, folks. And Vol. 1 only covers the first two names on the list.

A few months ago, when I heard Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein's plan was to chop this four-hour epic into two installments, I felt screwed. Titanic and the Lord of the Rings films proved long running times DON'T always affect box office returns. And I definitely didn't want to have to wait another four months and ten days to find out how the damn thing ends. I mean, that's gotta be a shorter wait than for any feature-length sequel in movie history, but still, it's cruel. Bad call, I thought.

Well, I was wrong. I needed that halftime break. I needed it for my sanity.


(Don't get me wrong. When Tarantino comes to play, he don't fuck around. He rolls with the big boys. He comes to be remembered. I plan on seeing this again soon. I don't know if I'd call it a brilliant film, but there's undeniable chunks of brilliance within it. So yeah, if you enjoy action films at all, it's a must see.)


This is really not the film it was marketed as. It's not a rollicking good time. It's not a rock and roll party. It's not "Woo-hoo, go get 'em!" It's not, in a word, easy.

It has been referred to as the single most violent American movie ever made. Is that true? Well, that puts it up against Saving Private Ryan, and I'm not making that call, not while I want to get to sleep tonight. But here's the thing. Those guys were ordered to fight. And we all have our tragedy glasses on - "Oh, isn't this horrid, we must NEVER allow it to happen again." Whereas, in this flick, these characters are just murderous fucking psychos. And, like in A Clockwork Orange, you're encouraged to root for them.

I'm reminded of the line Tarantino wrote in True Romance describing Sonny Chiba (who, hey, shows up in Kill Bill!) in Street Fighter: "He's not so much a good guy as he is a bad motherfucker." The Bride is an antihero at best, and once we've all seen Vol. 2, we can get pretentious and hypothesize around whether this tale is meant to roughly conform to Greek tragedy (especially concerning the role of The Bride's child). This was how I always saw Reservoir Dogs, given that each character's demise can be tied to his own fierce bonds of loyalty, and Mr. Pink, who doesn't believe in tipping, gets out the door with the diamonds. But I digress:

So it's not just the blood that gets to you. It's the mentality: cold, cruel, and merciless.

But we do need to talk about the blood. Hoses of blood. Fountains. Sprinklers. Pools. They went through hundreds of gallons of the stuff on the set, and that's not hyperbole. Everybody's used to one or two grisly murders in an R-rated flick. But here, it's a figure that probably gets into the triple digits. So if you don't think your stomach can take that, please, do yourself a favor and stay home.

Now, what's the typical human reaction when we see blood behave so athletically? We laugh. Tarantino knows this. He's a master of surprise, and extremism, and of switching gears in a microsecond. I personally don't laugh when Marvin gets accidentally shot in the face in Pulp Fiction, or when Mr. Blonde talks into the severed ear in Reservoir Dogs, but I've accepted that I'm different from most professionally jaded New Yorkers, and I know that this an acceptable, even an expected response, but I'm too busy feeling shock. It's a form of comedy not often used, and one that I highly respect.

So, when confronted with this torrent, this inundation, this maelstrom of blood, it's easy for Tarantino to claim homage to samurai films that only six Americans have ever seen, and it's easy for a contemporary audience to react, "Oh, I get it! It's a cartoon! Hyuck hyuck!" Sure, fine. Defend it however you want. All I'm saying is, I sensed gravity in those moments and I heard a hell of a lot of screaming and did it feel realistic? No. But it didn't feel cartoonish either.

It felt, well, like a nightmare. The atmosphere of a literal fearscape. The simplistic inevitability.

I think Tarantino wanted a 180 from Pulp Fiction's tone. I think he feinted high and then socked us in the gut. And it worked. Bold as hell, and he pulled it off. Now I'm sick to my stomach, but I respect the bastard.

So anyway, that's my piece. Here's the rundown:



Black and white. Single take. Tight closeup on Thurman. She's on the floor, covered in blood, breathing in spasms, dying (seemingly). Bill's voice, offscreen (as it remains for this entire first film), murmurs a few gentle insults, justifications. He cocks his revolver to execute her. She struggles to speak. "Bill, it's your baby." Before she finishes the sentence, he shoots her through the head. There is no tasteful cut to black preceding this.

Very Very Long Credits Sequence

Chapter One: 2

The bride knocks on the door of a cozy house in the suburbs. Vernita answers and the Bride socks her in the face. The two immediately begin to brawl, first wrecking all the furniture, then slashing with kitchen knives, which they awkwardly hide behind their backs when Vernita's four-year-old daughter suddenly arrives via the big yellow school bus. The moment broken, Vernita offers coffee, and they move to the kitchen to sling exposition peppered with at least fourteen "bitch"es. Vernita suggests they continue the battle later, where they won't be bothered, and the Bride agrees.

But Vernita's lie is made plain when she surprises the Bride with a pistol hidden inside a cereal box (like a prize, get it?). Her first shot misses and she does not get a chance at a second. The Bride turns around to discover the little girl was watching. She saw her mother be stabbed to death and slump to the floor.

This is the first instance in the film - the first of many - where you're presented with a situation you really can't laugh your way out of. I take it as a portent that the death here is not meant to be taken lightly. Even when we can't help but chuckle. (If that makes any sense.) To underline the consequences, The Bride tells the girl that if she's still mad about it when she grows up, she'll be waiting for her. And she exits the house, climbs into a yellow pickup emblazoned "PUSSY WAGON", and crosses Copperhead off her list.

--NOW THIS PART IS CRUCIAL.-- Vernita isn't number one on the list. She's number two, hence the chapter title. Number One, O-Ren Ishii, is already crossed off. This means that Tarantino has deliberately removed the "suspense" from the rest of the film. When you watch Chapter 5, which leads up to the confrontation with O-Ren, you're not supposed to be wondering, "Gee, is Uma gonna win?" He wants you to KNOW she is, so you can just sit back and watch all the ass be kicked, as though divinely ordained.

Chapter Two: The Blood-Spattered Bride

We return to the Bride's wedding day, to that dusty church in El Paso, Texas. The Sheriff (who might as well be playing the same exact character he did in the opening scene of From Dusk Till Dawn) investigates the massacre. When the Bride spits in his face (just like a snake, get it?) he realizes she's not dead despite the gushing head wound. She goes to the coma ward, where Elle Driver is sent to perform a lethal injection. At the last moment, Bill calls her cell phone, fondling a samurai sword and mumbling about honor, and orders her to abort the mission. She reluctantly does.

Four years later. The Bride awakes in horror, reliving the instant of her shooting. She feels her skull and taps a steel plate. She hears voices and feigns sleep.

Here we get yet another "unnecessary" moment that can't be excused as a gag: Buck, the redneck orderly who's been pimping her paralyzed body to his buddies for $75 a pop, and having his own way with her Satan knows how many times. She waits for an opportune moment, and dispatches them. How, I don't have the strength to relate to you right now.

But there's a problem. After fourteen hundred days of pooling blood, her legs don't work. She locates a wheelchair, travels to the parking lot, and in the backseat of the Pussy Wagon (the keys to which she liberated from Buck) she wills her feet back to life. During that, she imagines:

Chapter Three: The Origin of O-Ren Ishii

This chapter is captured entirely through anime. That decision blew me away. And it's not a cheap gag; it goes on for a while and is as morally repulsive as anything in the rest of the film. So, once again, there goes that "cartoon" theory. The style isn't slick and flashy like, say, Ninja Scroll, it's rough, splotchy, jagged.

O-Ren is a hidden witness to her parents' murder by the yakuza. Still a child, she gets the guilty mob boss alone and slices him open. Moving up the ranks of assassindom, she becomes a legend by the age of twenty.

I'm getting vaguer and vaguer with the details here because as I'm replaying these scenes in my mind I'm realizing the full impact comes from the specific visual presentation, and synopsis feels a little useless. (Yes, this is a cop-out, thank you.) As I said before, it's not what, it's how. I wouldn't describe it as style over substance, more like style becoming substance.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the location of the boardroom scene in which we learn how O-Ren, despite being half-Chinese and American-born, is able to keep control over the entire Tokyo underworld. Now, if you've EVER seen ANY gangster movie in your life, I'm sure you can guess what her methods are, but we are treated to one of the film's most explicitly gruesome slayings, capped (get it?) by a wonderful monologue by Miss Liu which tops (get it? get it? Okay, I'll stop now) her "Your methods are antiquated and weak!" speech in Charlie's Angels for sheer schizophrenia. Give this girl a raise. I would pay to watch her read toilet paper.

Chapter Four: The Man from Okinawa

The Bride travels to Japan to locate a retired master swordsman and convince him she needs his work. Due to an old debt, he fashions one more evil instrument of violence (disappointingly, this happens off-screen) and bequeathes it to her.

This sequence is a gentle interlude, full of respect, joviality, and sweetness (it was at this point I realized Uma was fully carrying the film with her intense focus and impressive range, and wondered if she will become a star much more in demand) and completely lacking any "action". It is the calm before the storm.

Chapter Five: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves

The Bride comes to town and it all goes down. She and her sword slay 88 yakuza in what you know, even before it begins, is a sequence that carves out a place in film history for itself. Pure kinetic art. Almost makes you wish Tarantino only ever wanted to make kung fu flicks.

The one-on-one battle with O-Ren follows, set against a gorgeous backdrop of indigo sky and falling snow. Much is learned about skill and respect. There seems to be a maturity here not found in Tarantino's other work.


And aside from a cliffhanger detail about the Bride's past that made many in my theater shout "Awwwww!", hooked, all that's left is to contemplate what Volume Two will hold. If you've been reading about the film's shoot, you know there's still Beijing and Texas to travel to. I suspect the next installment will feature more gunfights than sword showdowns, because how the hell could House of Blue Leaves be topped, but then, Tarantino has tread that ground before many times, and I wouldn't mind being proved wrong.

The final thing I want to mention is the score. I kept getting the feeling it was taken from other films. So I checked it out, and guess what? Most of it was. Hip-hop, baby. Sampling. And I won't knock it, because it worked. It worked like mad.


Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) - Weasello Rating: {****} (Wowza!) {{ Sequel }}
I'm not one to interpret Quentin Tarantino's latest movie; indeed, I don't even know if there's anything there to interpret. Though I sometimes pretend to be a poet, I'm not really, and I don't "get" any deeper meaning in Quentin's movies. All I know is that the previous movies he made were very enjoyable; and even my action-hating girlfriend loves his work.

Let's see if this movie stands up the same.

Spoilers abound.

Body Count: Good Lord. Jesus Murphy. Just give me a second, let the numbers stop rolling... rolling... rolling... OK, the finally tally is... oh wait, it's rolling again. Rolling... annnnndd... It looks like a final count of eighty-something. No wait, half of those people are still alive, just severely maimed. The final death tally is approximately 26.

One sentence plot summary: A nearly-murdered bride exacts revenge on her would-be-killers and former employer, utilizing her elite ninja SKiLLz and nigh invulnerability.

The Plot: Well, the plot is quite simple, actually, since most of the movie is action. A woman (the Bride) is shot in the head, and miraculously lives. She was pregnant at the time, and her baby is assumed lost. The rest of the wedding party, including the groom, are all dead.

It turns out that the Bride (Uma Thurman) used to be a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (D{i}VAS) but decided to calm things down and leave the fold of elite assasins, get married, and live a normal life. As with all elite gangs, there is no escape, and her death was the only choice.

Turns out that the bullet in her head simply put her in a coma for four years (that's all, no biggie). She awakes with a metal plate in her head, and she vows vengeance on the 4 members and 1 leader of the DiVAS.

The movie opens with her assasinating person number 2 on her hit list, then we are taken back in time to learn some plot, and then we see the climatic battle scene that is person number 1 on her death list of 5.

In the end, she is obviously successfull at both murder attempts, and we are left waiting for the sequel to see deaths three four and five.

My Opinion: Wow. I don't know if my girlfriend will be able to stand up to all the gore and the headlong rush of violence. I was settling in for a long, stylish but weird flick... However, the two hour blood fest just flies right on by, and I have to say that I didn't really notice the rush of time.

Quentin's previous movies are quite the rush; mixing a blend of dark humor and subtle action and gunplay, mainly to move a drama-based plotline. They weren't action movies; they were movies with action in them, and that's why my Wifey liked them so much (she hates action flicks). This movie is the exact opposite.

Kill Bill seems to exist solely to show fountains of blood, death, and maiming. Me, as an action movie buff who enjoys guns and explosions like any other real man, enjoyed this feature. It was a true, hard-core action film mainly dealing in Samurai Swords and not in guns.

The movie was very stylishly and artistically done with no major unintentional flaws. It was like watching an old kung-fu movie - which is what it was designed to emulate. And I must say, that as sparse as plot is in this film, it was still very enthralling. And the Anime sequence rocks, but I love anime so that might just be me.

The only thing more disturbing than the intense killing and maiming goings-on in the plot of this film, is the fact that she's only killed 2 of the 5 people on her death list.

Interesting Notes:
  • This movie was originally going to be in one piece, as opposed to being split into two movies (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). It turned out that even while filming, Quentin kept writing and kept making the movie longer. After 2 hours of gore, Quentin and the Producers figured that the audience would need a break. This also gave Quentin a "license" to make two movies totalling 4 or 5 hours, instead of one movie being 2 or 3 hours, thereby using nearly all of the script he had written instead of losing half of it to the cutting room floor.
  • 450 gallons of blood were used in the filming of the pair of movies. 450 Gallons of BLOOD.
  • Out of the 10 weeks of filming, 8 of those weeks were spent shooting the 20 minutes of big actiony sword-fighting scene.
Lead roles: Director: Quentin Tarantino (duh)

Writer: Quentin Tarantino (double duh)

Tagline: In the year 2003, Uma Thurman will kill Bill!

Running Time: 110 Minutes
Sources: The oh-so-wonderful IMDB, my head, my friends.
A spoiler-free writeup

Those of you lucky enough to keep your lives can go. But leave your severed body parts-- they belong to me.

Film is not of this earth. As a medium, cinema may present a picture of this world, but at its heart all artistic creations are in part fantasy, a slice of life as seen by their creator. They are the product of our imagination, thus at least in part imaginary, no matter how real the images that appear upon the screen.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the films of Quentin Tarantino, and no film is clearer on that point than Kill Bill. Like David Lynch Tarantino's films inhabit a world that could be ours, It is a world of organized crime and petty selfishness, a world where evil wears a pretty, even beautiful face. The scary part of that it could be real. Sort of.

The story of Kill Bill is a straightforward: revenge. It is a common story, dating from long before the cinima. Uma Thurman plays his protagonist, a very pregnant woman left for dead on her wedding day by a gangster named Bill and a gang of hired killers. A gang she used to belong to back when she was known as the Black Mamba. She awakes after spending four years in a coma, no longer pregnant, and with only one goal on her mind, revenge on Bill and the murderers who massacred everyone, even the organist. This is the story, or more correctly the first half of the story of her pursuit of their ruin.

From this realistic premise comes a totally unrealistic movie, one owing as much to Wile E. Coyote as it does to Alfred Hitchcock. Kill Bill is a fantasy without the elves. For Kill Bill is a kung-fu movie, in fact the attempt at the ultimate ninja flick. Such movies always live in the realm of fantasy. The characters are archetypes, not flesh and blood characters but scantly characterized representations of supernatural forces, actors in a divine comedy. Nor can they be. In the average Jackie Chan movie, the hero takes on waves of skilled assassins. But as a fencing instructor once told me: "Two mediocre swordsmen beat a great one every single time". Yet in this form of art, the hero readily defeats impossible odds. The aerobatic fighting scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are simply an extension of this cosmic fantasy into the vertical. Kill Bill is such a fantasy.

Uma Thurman's the Bride is one such archetype, the force for righteous vengeance. For honor and the retrieval of it is one constant of the genre. The villains are cold assassins, sociopaths to their last breath. Lucy Liu's O Ren Ishii represents the yakuza gangster. Her story is partly told via anime, which is appropriate and she too is a force of vengeance. But like those who might seek to wield Tolkien's One Ring, O Ren threw down the Dark Lord only to become him. And Bill is the greatest archetype of all. Played by David Carradine, he is never seen, only his fingers, his samurai sword and his murderous actions, including the shooting of the pregnant Bride carrying his child. Through his voice and ringed fingers, Bill is both comic and elevated, clearly the ultimate test.

Tarantino builds his world from our own vocabulary, one established from the popular film media. The movie is revealing of Tarantino's own video collection: Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Kurasawa and Jay Ward with a dash of Brian Depalma The movie is a homage to genre film: spaghetti westerns ninja films, and gangster movies, a language we are intimately familiar with. Only realism is twisted in Tarantinos universe. Severed limbs spout blood like a firehose, and violence is at times graphic and other times off stage. Tarantino understands that is necessary, that oversaturated but unrealistic violence may become comic, but too much graphic violence creates revulsion. By making the violence extreme yet unrealistic he detaches the audience, and makes it possible to laugh in the middle of murder. It is Itchy and Scratchy without the animation.

For Kill Bill is very much a comedy. While it may say much about us that we can laugh at such violence, the jokes are constant, and employ the same sort of ironic juxtapositions that so enliven his earlier Pulp Fiction. Japanese movies are backed with sixties pop, and the subtitles often come in American slang. Samurai swords sing when drawn, bowling pins fall, tittering Japanese schoolgirls turn into stone killers, psychotic assassins become suburban moms. But many of the details come from simply brilliant cinematography. From the perfect animee, vibrant primary colors and exquisite camera work, Kill Bill is a visual feast. The sound editing is particularly brilliant, with bowling pins and shimmering sounds providing a fantastic intimacy to this fantasy.. It all plays homage to the films Tarantino so clearly loves. Inside jokes are everywhere, and I know I missed most of them. Kill Bill is a triumph of form over content.

For content is not what you watch Kill Bill for. Tarantino is not Norman Mailer, nor does he seek to be. The story offers no real lessons, or in-depth portraits. The characters motivations are established, they meet, fight and one walks away. Of course this is just part one, the original cut ran over four hours and when the studios objected, Tarantino cut the film in two.

In some ways, I would enjoy seeing part II. Tarantino is nothing if not clever, and if it has the wit, humor and ballet of part I it will prove entertaining. Yet I wonder if this film needs finishing. As a homage, it stands alone, and I can see nothing in part II beyond more of the same. Not even catharsis through violence. Kill Bill is a brilliant homage, perhaps the ultimate. But that's all it is, and all it tries to be. It is a film of modest ambition, immodestly done.

The Acting

I didn't have an opinion on Uma Thurman's acting ability before watching Kill Bill. I do now. It was poor, end of story. From what I have been told, the reason she got the part was that she went to the producer, Lawrence Bender, and begged him to help her. Her career prior to Kill Bill Vol. 1 was going horribly wrong, but as she was a personal friend he put her to the top of the list.

Uma Thurman can't do revenge, that's for sure. You could see the hate in Kaji Meiko's eyes, the pain that she had endured every moment of her life. There was an excellent scene when she thought that one of her targets had died of natural causes. She was very still at first but then her eyes started to get wider and she began to shake gently with rage - then she cut some flowers left in half and broke her sword, cutting into the tombstone. Her face was for the most part an emotionless mask - her eyes told us everything we needed to know about her feelings. The only think I could see in Ms Thurman's eyes was the look of someone who was trying desperately to pretend she knew what she was doing but couldn't lie to herself. It's interesting, as I often think the Japanese know how to demonstrate emotions like anger and hate the best in theatre and film.

As a side note, I thought that Lucy Liu gave a very good performance. She had a lot of venom in her, much like Kaji Meiko. It's a shame she didn't have a better script and an opportunity to tell us something more about her character. However she used what relatively little she had to work with very well. It is a shame that the film centres around "The Bride" so much because I really wanted to see and hear more of Lucy. The film felt horribly imbalanced with Uma Thurman as the leading lady and Lucy simply the "bad guy". In some respects O-Ren Ishii is even more like Lady Snowblood than the Bride, her life being shaped by the death of her parents and her desire for revenge.

Finally I thought it was really daft Lucy had to say her "I collect your f**king head" speech in English. Why is a half Chinese-Japanese woman brought up in Japan, who was orphaned at a young age, unable to speak Japanese fluently? What's even more ridiculous is the fact that she can speak English perfectly.

The Camera work

The camera work in Kill Bill wasn't bad in most places but there were some awful missed opportunities. During the final battle, the camera zooms out. Why? We want to watch the fight. Lady Snowblood was always up close and personal. That's why I could see the steely gaze of Kaji Meiko. With Kill Bill, I was simply left with the impression that the camera was zoomed out so that we couldn't see that the stunt doubles were doing all of the fighting (perhaps I'm wrong here). When we did get to see the action close up it was great to see Lucy Liu's concentration. Uma Thurman, however, looked like she was scared - obviously she forgot this was a film and not real life.

The Sets

Both films had good sets. This was one reason I wanted to like Kill Bill. It was pretty. But so was Lady Snowblood and they used REAL sets. Can you imagine how difficult it was to recreate a 19th century Japanese town, with original clothing, even original banknotes? Even in the 1970s traditional Japan had all but disappeared from the map.

The Soundtracks

One of the few good parts about Kill Bill. When O-Ren Ishii dies, we hear the main theme from Lady Snowblood (sung by the lovely Kaji Meiko herself), further highlighting the links between the two films. I enjoyed most of Kill Bill's music and it was well orientated with the action. Of course, the original soundtrack for Lady Snowblood is great, portraying the mood of each scence admirably.


All in all, I thought that Tarantino had simply made a poor rip-off of an excellent film, leaching off an excellent genre. A lot of people were tricked into praising the film by the visual effects and the choreography. Some of his past films were truly great but I felt that this time, all that he had done was throw a huge amount of money at the film, spending lots of money on special effects and likeable actresses. If Fujita Toshiya had been given his budget, he either would have given 95% of it back and said he didn't need it, or he would have made Tarantino look like a 10 year-old boy with a wet-dream about samurai and martial arts. I hope that he tries harder next time, or doesn't try at all.

I have heard people say that Quentin Tarantino has privately praised films like Lady Snowblood, saying that it did inspire him. Yes, very nice, now where does that get mentioned in the film? Nowhere? Yep, NOWHERE! No mention at the start, not even a "thanks to" with the credits. Making a few references in interviews does not really counterbalance the impression people would have received from watching the film.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.