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Kill Bill: Volume 1

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I saw Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film (he lets you know it’s his fourth in the credits) last night. I could have seen it on the IMAX screen, but their website didn’t detail which screenings were playing where, so we went to the earlier one. Like Gregg Easterbrook I thought this movie was disgusting, but, unlike the TMQ, I didn’t think it was morally disgusting, just visually and auditorily (a word?). Every wound seemed to be an amputation or a disembowlement, and every one of those was a firehose of blood either forced through a mister or just gushing all over the floor. One woman lost an arm, spun around spraying blood in a six foot radius, rolled around on the floor for twenty minutes, and lived.

Then there were the sounds. Countless people made this crazy gurgling noise when they were stabbed, and in one scene a young female bodyguard was thrown through a table and I swear it made the sound of bowling pins crashing. The soundtrack was great, but very different (which you’d expect from the RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan fame). I describe it as blaxploitation/spaghetti western/tribal drums fusion. Other songs on the soundtrack included a Zamfir (Zamfir!) and a mimimalist Nancy Sinatra track. Course, none of us should be surprised by anything Tarantino does musically at this point.

The plot is simple: Uma Thurman is the main character, known only as the Bride (her code name was the Black Mambo, but she doesn’t go by that anymore). Rather than just never give her a name, the movie bleeps out the two or three mentions of her Christian moniker. That was kinda weird, why not just be silent about it? I guess we also shouldn’t be surprised when Tarantino resorts to a gimic. But I digress…

The Bride was nearly killed on her wedding day, and the eight other members of her wedding party were killed. She wakes up four years later in the coma ward of a hospital and comes into a ridiculous vehicle with Pussy Wagon written on the tailgate. She trains herself to walk, going from telling her toe to wiggle to walking in thirteen hours, and heads to Okinawa to begin getting revenge.

From there it’s just non-stop knife and sword slaughter. Thurman makes a surprisingly good action hero, those long lithe limbs flying, those huge blue eyes effortlessly showing shock and anger. She doesn’t exactly look good throughout the movie, she’s usually covered in blood, but she is shot expressively, and she does a pretty good job with some wooden dialogue. I think Tarantino the writer has taken a vacation so Tarantino the director gets full use of that weird brain.

Whatever else you can say about Tarantino, he can shoot a fight like no other. Most directors try to do the insanely quick cuts and end up making every scene incomprehensible. Tarantino can seemingly cut anywhere, switch to any angle, and you still know exactly where you are and what’s happening. He combines chaotic excitement with easy visual comprehension, but he doesn’t seem to be having any fun anymore. Check out his crazed, white-boy dancing in this clip from the DVD of Pulp Fiction. Can you imagine him doing that on the set of Kill Bill or Jackie Brown? I didn’t think so. Stop taking yourself so seriously, pal!

Kill Bill was good but not great, and man am I glad they split it up. I don’t think I could have handled three and a half hours of this mayhem, and I know that Beth couldn’t have.

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About Matt Moore

  • plenty of other films have had the same level, or more, gore.
    But you are right that anyone who actively dislikes such in films will be best off avoiding this, which is a real shame.
    The fight scenes when the bride has a sword simply ooze coolness (with volume 2 looking from the trailers like it will manage to beat this)
    The story doesn’t try to fool you, or even justify itself – it’s simply a matter of calm, calculated revenge. From right near the beginning of the film we are made aware that the bride was in the assassination sqaud too, i.e. she was a criminal who killed for money (and possibly infamy, and pleasure)
    The usage of black-and-white is never gratuitous, and subtle enough that if you’re not paying attention you’ll barely notice it
    Tarantino has also managed to make the swordplay “fit” – it doesn’t feel like a shooting film where the guns have simply been replaced, instead the usage of swords just seems…right

  • Grady

    I was so shocked by the gore in this film my body shut down and fainted. It just said ‘No more’ and I woke up at the end when my brother had to shake me. I had sweat all over and couldn’t stand. If you can’t stand gore, avoid this. It’s not the blood. Red water, bah. It’s the gore. There’s too much.

  • i found kill bill a waste of time. i’m not too much into action and japanese anime and such anyway, so it wasn’t hard to not impress me with this movie. but a bit of a deeper story would have done wonders probably.

    i think this movie’s success lives on the name Tarantino, and that’s just not enough for me.

    good for them they divided the movie into two parts. that way they’re gonna make a load more money, of course, but i think they should have just put it into one. i see no reason why to divide a one sentence long story into two half sentences long movies.

  • Eric Olsen

    I am the same way, just kidding you mostly. A lot of people have said similar things. Thanks!

  • Well, I’m not a big fan of violence, I sometimes have trouble watching it. But I can certainly look past it to see the rest of the movie as good.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Matt, made a lot of sense, though I was surprised to hear at the end that you liked it – so it was disgusting in a good way?