Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Review

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Parks, Jun Kunimura, Kazuki Kitamura

By Joe909

This is my first review for City On Fire in a long time, and it will probably be my last. The reason is simple. What was once a cool site is now a haven for losers. And I mean losers of the worst type. Worse than D&D geeks, computer nerds, and the like. I am referring to the lowest of the low: the Asian movie fanboy.

It’s all obvious. It’s all petty jealousy. If not jealousy, then a lame attempt at sounding “different” (and therefore smarter, right, fanboys?) from the pack.

I will tell you why I think Kill Bill Volume 1 is a great movie, but first I must educate the Asian movie fanboys out there. Because you see, unlike them, I actually know my ass from a hole in the ground. I have been watching the same movies that inspired Tarantino since I was a kid, in the ’70s. I was there when you had to search high and low for any Asian movies at all. I was there when things weren’t so easy. The fanboy of today merely logs onto Hkflix.com, orders some titles, reads a few message board posts, and instantly thinks he knows everything about the genre.

The fanboy is wrong. The fanboy is ALWAYS wrong. The fanboy is beneath contempt.

From “Shaolin Fox Conspiracy” to “The Chinese Mechanic,” I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the trashy US movies, the Italian exploitation, the spaghetti westerns. I’ve seen the samurai movies: new, old, and boring. And I can tell you that, even if Tarantino has lifted an image here, a scenario there, he’s nowhere near the level of creative thievery that Asian filmmakers have committed on Hollywood movies.

Yeah, yeah, yeah; we all know about the City on Fire/Reservoir Dogs connections. Fanboys use this day in and day out to keep the fire alive. But the fanboy, again, knows nothing. Let’s look at some Hong Kong movies that have pilfered from Hollywood. We’ll start with one of my favorites, Pink Force Commando. Here’s a movie that not only lifts images from Evil Dead (the heroine, Bridgett Lin, replaces a missing arm with a shotgun), but also takes liberally from Indiana Jones, the Dirty Dozen, and the Road Warrior. Moving on, there’s Red Wolf, a movie that takes from both Die Hard and Under Siege. And how about the Andy Lau movie Crocodile Hunter, another one that borrows from Die Hard?

But the fanboy is incapable of making such comparisons, because the fanboy is unaware of these movies. The fanboy has only seen Jackie Chan’s classics. The fanboy has only seen those films available at Blockbuster. The fanboy has no knowledge ? other than what he has read online ? of movies made before 1980. The fanboy merely reads that Tarantino “rips off” other movies, and believes it, without seeing those movies for himself.

Having seen so many of these movies, I can safely say that not one single frame of Kill Bill borders on plagiarism. When Uma Thurman shows up wearing Bruce Lee’s tracksuit, you don’t stand up and scream “Scoundrel!” Instead you just shake your head at how cool and how RIGHT it seems. Uma now owns that tracksuit as much as Bruce Lee ever did, and I say that as a bona fide Bruce Lee fan. This movie is vibrant, colorful, masterful, and original. Like Ebert wrote, “It’s kind of brilliant.” I agree. I agree entirely. Tarantino does what so many HK film buffs have dreamed of: he’s made a cinematic love letter to all those movies he loved as a kid.

When I reviewed the script on here a while back, I worried that the movie wouldn’t work on screen. After all, there wasn’t much story involved, not much plot beyond the standard “revenge” theme. I don’t know what I was worried about. The Shaw empire was built on films that basically revolved around the same theme, the theme of vengeance. And each of those films worked just fine: simple yarns about men seeking vengeance, yarns that reached near-mythic proportions due to their simple natures.

Like those movies, Kill Bill is mythic. Kill Bill is more mythic than any sci-fi or fantasy movie I’ve seen. These characters are not real-life; they’re comic book caricatures come to life. That’s another thing I worried about, that viewers wouldn’t care for the paper-thin characters. But I was wrong. Tarantino enjoys many triumphs with this movie, but possibly the greatest is that he and his actors make these mythic characters seem so flesh and blood; the actors in the X-Men movies looked like what they were, actors in costumes, but the actors in Kill Bill BECOME their characters. That’s not Darryl Hannah on screen, that’s Elle Driver. That’s not Uma Thurman. That’s the Bride. There have been only a few times when I so believed that the characters on screen were real, not just the writer’s creations brought to life. With only a modicum of dialog to work with, the actors successfully bring their characters to life with expressions, with the way they carry themselves. It works brilliantly, and the spaghetti-western soundtrack only serves to heighten the mythic proportions. The movie plays like Once Upon a Time in The West with samurai swords.

The movie works. The story works. With this film, Tarantino proves that he can make a moving, unique film out of the most basic of stories. His directorial skills are through the roof. The static shots that characterized Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have been replaced with some of the most inventive shots I’ve seen. The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves is directed with such flair and mastery that it’s instantly become one of the best sword-fights ever filmed. Like I suspected he would, Tarantino made a few changes to the story, but nothing major. For example, the brief segment in which Go-Go kills some poor fool in a bar was originally scripted for her sister Yuki, and was featured in the unfilmed chapter “Yuki’s Revenge.” One thing that interests me is the internet claim that the Blue Leaves segment is in color in the Japanese version of the film. What’s strange is that Tarantino specified in both drafts of the screenplay that the scene would be in black and white.

Re-watch value is high. There are no slow spots in Kill Bill. At first I doubted the wisdom of cutting the film in half, but now I see it was a good decision. The Blue Leaves sequence leaves the viewer breathless. I couldn’t imagine sitting there for another 90 minutes. It also serves to whet your appetite for the rest of the story. I cannot wait to see Volume Two. I absolutely cannot wait. I haven’t been this excited to see a movie since I was a kid, and saw the commercials for Star Wars. The fanboys are excited, too, of course. This means that now they have someone to bash, so they can fool others into believing they’re intelligent people with intelligent opinions.

I have another theory why the fanboys don’t like Tarantino’s movies. From the start, Tarantino has made cool movies for cool people. His earliest and greatest supporters, after all, were the jet-set crowd. By nature, however, the fanboy is not cool. The fanboy doesn’t understand cool. Kill Bill is a benchmark of cool. The fanboy doesn’t get it, because the fanboy is as cool as an overweight, acne-ridden, mullet-headed D&D freak.

I’m not going to bore you with details. Everyone knows the story. The fact is, Kill Bill is a fantastic movie, a movie made for those who love movies. Tarantino’s passion for cinema is evident in each and every blood-spattered, ingenious frame.

It’s simple. If you don’t see Kill Bill just because you have a juvenile hatred for Tarantino or Miramax, you’re an asshole.

Joe909’s Rating: 10/10


By Mairosu

*SPOILERS* I sure took my sweet time on watching this film eh. Well, I have a very low concentration span. If I see a movie which is a part of some trilogy or whatnot and the sequels are connected to each other, I would fancy seeing the related sequel somewhere between the ending credits of the first one and next week, or I lose interest. Now, that I have both Kill Bills in my reach, I finally sat down and saw the first part yesterday.

Well, I kinda like Tarantino. I really like Reservoir Dogs. And Pulp Fiction. I didn’t like Jackie Brown, but I loved From Dusk Till Dawn. True Romance wasn’t bad. Natural Born Killers either. Sure, the man’s everything but original, his style a mish-mash of various French and oriental schools, but he’s got something going for him. He’s, as much as I hate this word, “hip”. He writes a good, solid dialogue and that definitely sells his films for me. The action and the direction you saw all before, but the dialogue ? Classic material most of the time.

I was sorta amused when I heard that Quentin was going to do a homage to asian cinema with his latest effort called Kill Bill. Kill Bill (I still find this a very, very daft title mind you) took good 2 years or so to bake, and it arrived in two installments as a part of clever moneymaking ploy by our dear friends at Miramax. And after hearing all those ungodly great critics about Kill Bill, I, well, feel slightly underwhelmed.

Well, more than slightly. For once, the dialogue doesn’t save it for me. And, when you remove the Quentinesque ditties about, oh say, Madonna getting dicked from every angle or about mayo on fries in Holland, you get a film which you’ve seen before. Or feel like you saw before. Which is exactly how I felt with Kill Bill.

Story starts with a black and white shot of a blonde broad simply called “the Bride”, who is lying down all bloody. She is read her “last rites” of sorts by a bloke called simply Bill, who then proceeds to drill a bullet straight into her forehead. Cut to four years later, Bride, amazingly still alive, tracks down one of the assassins which hacked her back then and indulges into a finely choreographed fight scene with her (Vivica Fox is the other party). After a brief pause caused by Fox’s daughter coming back from school, the two settle their score and Bride returns to her grotesque pickup truck (the popular “pussy wagon”) and scratches another name off her hit list. We see that one name – that of O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) – has been already scratched, and that starts the flashback sequence which, well, lasts until the ending credits of part 1.

So, story goes, the pregnant Bride is for reasons unknown (to me at least, I missed some lines because I was watching without subs) beaten to death and left to die by the dangerous “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” (a quirky reference to the “fox force five” from Pulp Fiction I would assume), which we learn later that the Bride was a part of as well. The chief of the organisation is the aforementioned Bill. Bride SOMEHOW survives the massacre (without her baby), and is in a state of coma. She nearly gets finished off by one of the deadly vipers (Daryl Hannah), but Bill opts to leave her in coma – killing her like that would not be honourable.

Well, a big mistake that one. Four years after the incident, Bride suddenly wakes up and is hungry for revenge. She gets her first taste of it after mauling the guy who turns out has been whoring her while in coma (quite repulsive, I know), but afterwards, she sets her sights on Japan. And O-Ren Ishii. Prior to that, she indulges into a 13 hour session of reviving her limbs while in a car of the hospital parking lot. Naturally, no one even bothers to notice that she left two dead men in a pool of blood somewhere at the hospital and that no one noticed a strange blonde in a VERY distinctive car inside of a parking lot saying “wiggle” to her toes. But oh well, it’s just a movie. Speaking of toes, I knew Quentin was a huge foot fetishist, but this surpassed anything so far. I didn’t mind seeing Lucy Liu’s feet, or the feet of the 5,6,7,8’s at the House of Blue Leaves (read on to find out), but Uma…man, those feet are ugly. And he overkills on zooming her toes. But to each his own. Anyhow, after we’re informed about O-Ren’s past through a very well-done little animated feature (a mini-anime actually), Bride takes off for Okinawa, looking for this Hattori Hanzo character.

Now, Hanzo, played by Quentin’s fanboy icon Sonny Chiba, is reportedly the direct descendent of the Hattori Hanzo from the cult 80’s series called “Shadow Warriors”. He agrees to make a sword for the Bride, as he learns that one of his former students (Bill, again) rubbed her the wrong way. So, Bride gets her sword, jets further to Tokyo, finds her way to a fancy joint called “House of the Blue Leaves” (their in-house band is a all-girl rockabilly/surf/garage trio called “5,6,7,8’s” which perform…you got it, barefoot)…and all hell breaks loose.

O-Ren was a busy girl in the past four years, apparently she became the head honcho of all the yakuza in Tokyo and assembled a private mini-army (all with Kato’s “Green Hornet” masks, a nod to Bruce Lee) to protect her, along with her personal bodyguard, a 17-year old happy-go-ballistic schoolgirl GoGo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale fame) who wields something reminiscing a “kusari-gama”, an old ninja weapon consisting of a spiked ball on a chain which is tied to a sickle. After lopping off a head of a yakuza oyabun because he commented on her “unpure” (American-Chinese-Japanese) heritage, she proceeds to have some fun at the House of Blue Leaves’ exclusive suit. Which is where Bride comes in, in her yellow-black jumpsuit (another nod to Bruce Lee) and with her trusty Hanzo steel sword next to her.

What happens in the following half an hour or so is pure uncontrolled mayhem. Bride slashes, blood spurts from about everywhere, it all leads to a climactic encounter in a snow-covered garden in which O-Ren gets killed…and Bill gets informed of his former colleague who is on the lam. That wraps up the film along with a neat little cliffhanger (find it out yourself).

And as curtain falls…I’m duly unimpressed. It started good. It finished good. It had good bits around. But it just didn’t do it for me. There were no quirky speeches about Madonna, or Pam Grier, or foot massages (there were copious shots of female feet, but that’s not the same admittedly). And as I noted above, I just felt I saw it all before. The revenge plot, for one, smells of Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime), which I think Quentin even confirmed. The whole big picture of “good guy gets almost killed, then retreats, recovers, learns new skills and whups arse” was also rehashed to infinity. All the fighting choreography was exceptionally good done (choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen, who directed such classics as Snake in Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master, Magnificent Butcher and recently exported his talents to the US where he helped with the Matrix trilogy et al), but it was nothing groundbreaking (minus points for every idiot who thought that “flying” sequences and the house of blue leaves fights were lifted out of Matrix) – it’s all been done before. Simply put, Kill Bill is one huge compilation of various things, and it will work for you if you are already not too acquainted with them. It is probably a great introduction to someone who wants to explore Asian film, but for me, it was just a rehash.

Not a bad rehash at that. It’s pretty watchable, and great fun at times. But with Quentin, you grow to expect more, and he just didn’t deliver for me this time. I don’t know what to expect from part 2, as part 1 got universally rip-roaringly great grades and part 2 was supposedly more subdued. I hope it will feature more fun dialogues, if nothing else.

(I’ll still buy the DVD. Damned completionist that I am.)

Mairosu’s Rating: 7/10


By Reefer

As I watched the highly anticipated fourth film of Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill, I wondered to myself about how I was gonna review this film without giving too much away. Well, please understand that this is an especially difficult chore since there is simply nothing to give away. Aside from withholding details as to who dies and how, any plot synopsis you can give would BE the actual movie.

Summary: The Bride (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a coma, inflicted by members of a cheesy-named assassination squad, and commences to eviscerate members of said group and its mysterious leader, Bill.

And that’s exactly what happens.

Sure, the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino loads up on the gore, features a pretty great soundtrack, and some fun performances (especially by Japanese film legend, Sonny Chiba) but the narrative is nearly pointless. For example, if the subject of this film is revenge, then I believe the audience got the point in the first fifteen minutes. The Bride, as the heroine of Quentin’s fourth film, simply travels from place to place slicing-and-dicing as the story requires. Mixing up the chronology of the story’s happenings seems to only be an attempt to hide the fact that nothing new IS happening. In fact, the quality of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film’s screenplay is certainly in question because each segment of the film is divided into nothing more clever than simple chapters instead of cinematically literate story transitions. I ask you, shouldn’t we expect something more?

Inspired by Miramax, I have decided to split my review in half and withhold my rating so that I can double the readership, thus rake in more profits. So, we’ll talk again in February. . . . . . .
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Hold on. Hold on. I am not getting paid for this. Am I? Screw this then.

Kill Bill Volume 1 Review Volume 2

Now where was I?

Oh yeah.

Now, the homage paid to Asian films and some of Quentin’s other stylistic touches do well the heighten the experience, but again, shouldn’t we expect more from the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino? I mean, really, its his fourth film isn’t it? Least that’s what the ads and the opening credits so proudly proclaim in huge font. Shouldn’t this be an achievement second to none? Well, that is, of course, for the masses to decide, but I would be lesser a film reviewer if I didn’t let it be known that it really isn’t.

Nope.

At least not in this form. Yeah, those who really want to know if the entire film is good will have to wait until February of 2004 for Volume 2, and for some, it may be too long a wait. In my mind, anyway, this clearly financial decision ironically “killed” Kill Bill. Sure, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film leaves you with some tidbits of info to chew on until then, but unfortunately that transforms this installment into very simple back story.

Restoring the film to it’s full 3 hours-plus would truly do wonders for it. Such a “radical” idea would make the long-winded exposition of many of the supporting characters seem more practical and, I am guessing, symmetrical because I predict that there are similar narrative excursions in the next volume about the other characters. I am speaking mainly of an excellent anime story, that probably runs over ten minutes, about how O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) became the icy assassin that she is, but there are many such sequences in Quentin’s fourth film that could be cut. Moreover, the audience needs someone to root for. I hope the next installment softens The Bride up a bit because what we are left with here is an unlikable killer who has been done wrong, even though we can all assume that she has only done wrong her entire life. So who cares? Isn’t she getting what she deserves?

Ok, this is an action film. Quentin’s fourth film does not fail to deliver in that department. That is, it doesn’t if you don’t care about characterization and motivation. It doesn’t if you don’t care that Uma is nothing but a revenge robot. And finally, it doesn’t if you don’t mind your gore sudden and shockingly messy. Limbs, heads, torsos and the like are shredded, lopped, and severed while much blood is splattered, sprayed, spilled, and squirted for all to see, making it one of the most violent American films in years. It is for this reason, I believe, that in the middle of the final bloodbath the screen inexplicably goes black and white. Maybe the level of bloodshed is temporarily tamed by the loss of color. Otherwise, I have no explanation to why this film did not receive the dreaded NC-17 rating.

While I did mention that the wait might be too long for some, I will not be passing on Volume 2. After all, I have 110 minutes now invested in it. But for those of you who haven’t been as eager, you can skip this one. The next one will probably be better.

So congrats Miramax. You have another sucker. Why don’t I just mail you my $7.50 now.

Reefer’s Rating: 6.5/10

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2 Responses to Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Review

  1. AMK says:

    I just wanted to let Joe know that I own the Japanese release and it does have the Blue Leaves sequence in color with a few seconds of extra gore. It also shows Beatrix cutting off Sophie’s other arm in the trunk of the car.

  2. Adrian says:

    I think this would be great! Although, as most Tarantino rumors go, prbaobly nothing will come of this.Gaga is a very talented artist, and gets brushed off as cookie-cutter crap by people who don’t take the time to notice there is a lot more going on under the surface.Why would you think Tarantino would have to be drunk to make a decision like this?I’ve read that he and Gaga have formed a friendship. He even loaned her the Pussy Wagon for her latest music video, which has a cool Tarantino-esque vibe at some points.

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