Kill Bill volume I and II are the modern day version of spaghetti westerns played out as Hong Kong action flicks. Uma Thurman “Bride” character begins as a nameless assassin seeking revenge from her former boss, Bill. We don’t know her know any more than we knew about man with no names in Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns of the late 60’s. It is in the second volume that the Bride ceases to be the anonymous killer but a person with a past and a name.
Kill Bill volume One, is a slash and cut movie that moves with typical Tarantino fast pacing along with mesmerizing dialogue. The Bride follows the code of the old West as she gives her victims an even chance. Her fights with the Copperhead played by Vivica Fox and Oren played by Lucy Liu resembles old fashion western gunfights. The combatants face each other. It is High Noon.
The first volume does very little to shed light upon the Bride but we are given quite a bit of details about Lucy Liu character. We see a little girl who witnessed the death of her parents and her rise at the head of the Tokyo underworld. The Bride own fight with Liu is reminisce of the various Hong Kong action flick combined with Tarantino blood lust. Volume One resembles a Super hero comic book as the Bride chops her way through an army before slicing the top of Liu’s head.
The second volume goes in a different direction. In Volume one, Bill is more of a myth and man hidden from view. He is a killer with no mercy and no compassion. In the Second Volume, we see Bill as a killer with feelings, feelings for his brother and his ex-girl friend who he tried to kill. We see the depth of Bill’s relationship with the Bride and we learn the name of the Bride-It is Beatrix Kiddo. If the first volume is a live action slash and cut flick, the second movie is a more serious movie as we explore what makes both Beatrix and Bill tick. We see the Bride own transformation into a warrior including her training under the master Mei Pei. In warning his brother about the Bride’s coming apocalypse, Bill shows some love for his wayward brother. We even gain some empathy for Bill. The very last fight between Bill and the Bride is more bittersweet as it is satisfying. The Bride gets her final revenge and her Child back but she also feels the pain of Bill’s death. The Bride and Bill are much alike.
David Carradine discussion on super heroes is fascinating as he talks about Superman view of humanity. Superman disguises himself as a meek and somewhat cowardly Clark Kent. Superman view of humanity was not of strength but weakness and he reminds his former girlfriend that they were killers not destined for normal living. He was only trying to protect her from a life that she did not belong. The Bride counterpoint is that when she became pregnant, she could no longer be the killer. The life inside changed her and she tried to walked away from her life and Bill. As Bill tells her, you can’t walk away from a life of being a killer for a life clipping coupons.
Bill was in love with Beatrix Kiddo and when she left with his child, he had no intention of letting either she or their child go. As Bill quips, “Maybe I over reacted,” when explaining to his girl friend his reason for trying to kill her. In a bizarre sort of way, it makes sense. The audience is forced to pay attention to both movies as both flicks shifts back and forth in time.
A friend recently told me that what he liked about Pulp Fiction was the dialogue. He commented, “That you can close your eyes listen to the dialogue. You can envision the film just by listening.” Kill Bill is a more visual movie than Pulp Fiction. In the first volume, the dialogue is merely prop to the action that surrounds it. The second volume follows Pulp Fiction since dialogue and narrative is more important. The fight scenes are more visceral and resemble bar fights as oppose to choreographed dances. In volume one, fight scenes are nothing more than ballot using martial arts movement with plenty of blood thrown in.
There is a more gritty nature to the second volume. The first Kill Bill shows very little character development whereas the second Kill Bill resembles Pulp Fiction in character development. In Pulp Fiction, We see Samuel Jackson going through a religious experience as he survives bullets flying around him in close combat. He views it as a sign from God and Bruce Willis finds himself allied with his old enemy against a new threat as two rednecks threaten to kill them both. Both men show honor and dignity in businesses that rewards neither. Kill Bill makes the same point that even in the world of assassins, honor still holds a place.
The Bride and Bill contrast with Elle, who lacks all of these qualities of honor. Elle never truly understood Bill nor Bride nor the code that formed both of their lives. Elle, unlike the Bride “aka Beatrix Kiddo”, fail to learn these lessons from the old Kung Master Pai Mei. Instead, Elle poisoned the old Master as revenge for his disciplinarian methods whereas Beatrix learned all of the lessons of the Master. Lesson that proved valuable and life saving.
Recently, I saw Pulp Fiction before seeing the two Kill Bill a second time. Pulp Fiction is Tarantino masterpiece and both volumes of Kill Bill reach those same heights. The second Kill Bill is comparable to Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill volume I just fall short. The first volume is the action portion of the movie and the second volume delves into the themes of honor similar to those practiced in the Old Western. Even criminals may have honor or they can ignore those virtues. Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s masterpiece but Kill Bill is worthy successor to Pulp Fiction.