Kill Bill Vol. 1
review by KJ Doughton, 10 October 2003

Glorious Bloodshed

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a whirlwind of glorious bloodshed that simultaneously shocks and exhilarates. It’s like an X-rated version of Charlie’s Angels, – sprinkled with angel dust. Fumigating us with its heady, mind-melting rush of wild set pieces, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth movie induces cinematic psychosis with its gory tale of a bullet-riddled bride settling scores. Like Peckinpah, DePalma, and Woo before him, Tarantino pounds us with brutality in a way that is so stylized, fresh, and unpredictable that we not only welcome it – we hand him the sledgehammer.

Uma Thurman stars as The Bride, shot at the altar on her wedding day by a depraved band of assassins known as The Viper Squad. Mentored by a creepy, seldom-seen specter of a man named Bill (David Carradine), the hit squad consists of mostly damaged women, each with their own death-dealing specialty. Lucy Liu is O-Ren Ishii, Tokyo crime matriarch, Vivica A. Fox is a domesticated, Pasadena mom, and Daryl Hannah plays a one-eyed blonde named Elle Driver. All three are bonded by bloodshed, elite predators spawned from the same sorority snake pit.

Why has Bill’s estrogen-heavy gang interrupted Thurman’s wedding party with such ruthless gunplay? Kill Bill Vol. 1 pitches us some of the pieces, but the full explanation will have to wait until Vol. 2 is released in November. We’re informed that The Bride was once a Viper Squad Assassin as well, code-named Black Mamba. And regardless of the reason for her ex-employer’s Texas wedding massacre, she’s understandably pissed off. After spending four years in a coma, the brutalized Bride awakens and immediately seeks vengeance on the femme fatales that caused such mayhem.

Unlike Tarantino’s brilliant 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction, which tossed and turned us like a washing machine through its crisscrossing plot lines, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a straightforward revenge story. However, the set pieces that Tarantino delivers are so hypnotic, and the images so gripping, that they pin one’s eyeballs to the screen. Heavy boots saunter across a wooden floor. A haggard hand caresses the case of a Samurai sword. A long-legged, one-eyed blonde, clad in a blazing-white nurse’s uniform and matching eye patch, whistles a sinister lullaby. A dead-eyed, teenaged assassin named Go Go uses a childish giggle like a rattlesnake's shaking tail, to warn enemies of impending doom. A California home, slathered in friendly pastels, acts as the benign backdrop while two women hurl knives and glass cabinets during a domestic death-duel.

But wait! What about the amazing prelude to Thurman’s confrontation with Liu, where “Flight of the Bumblebee” floods our ears as jet plane and sleek limousine usher these competitors into Tokyo? And check out Thurman’s crimson collision course with a gazillion masked henchmen, where swords separate appendages from trunks at a rate not seen since Peter Jackson’s splatterfest Dead Alive. Meanwhile, behold the truly disturbing, dark anime (courtesy Production I.G.) that provides us with O-Ren’s troubled upbringing.

Amidst the carnage (choreographed by martial arts veteran Sonny Chiba, who also stars as sword maker Hattori Hanzo), Tarantino also provides us with gorgeous images of his stars. Not commonly perceived as “cutting-edge” marquee names in the past, Liu, Hannah, and Fox act in jarring physical contrast to one another. It’s as if we’re viewing each for the first time. Liu’s underworld leader, in particular, strikes a commanding pose that’s both graceful and frightening, as she hovers over a board room’s meeting table and explains exactly what her expectations are to a group of crime associates. Meanwhile, Thurman is sensational. With an oddly beautiful face that can appear either old-star elegant or anemic, and a wiry, athletic body, she gamely hurls herself through Tarantino’s meat grinder as a scathed survivor.

As with his past films, Tarantino provides viewers with an intoxicating contradiction of grisly, cruel violence staged in the giddy, energetic fashion of a musical. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is so alive in its celebration of death that one doesn’t know whether to be offended or invigorated. Either way, one thing is undisputed: Tarantino is the most uninhibited, informed, go-for-broke director working today, and no one else touches him.


Written and
Directed by:

Quentin Tarantino

Uma Thurman
Lucy Liu
Daryl Hannahi
Vivica A. Fox
Michael Parks
Sonny Chiba
Chiaki Kuriyama
Julie Dreyfus
Gordon Liu
Michael Madsen

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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