Kill Bill Volume 1


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"Kill Bill will chop your socks off. It's sexy, exciting, amazing fun."

Kill Bill

Volume 1
The Masked Reviewer

Quentin Tarantino is back after a six year hiatus from directing his last film, Jackie Brown (1997).  For those of you missed that one and aren't familiar with him, he also wrote and directed Pulp Fiction (1994) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).  He also wrote True Romance (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), and From Dusk 'Til Dawn (1996). 

Kill Bill is the new and highly anticipated film from this highly regarded director.  Not many directors have received so much praise for such a small body of work.  Tarantino is largely responsible for the huge success of Miramax Films, and though he does receive quite a bit of criticism, he has a huge fan base that will turn up to see his latest work.

The first thing worth discussing with Kill Bill is that it was not originally intended to be released in two parts.  The decision was made by Miramax execs a few months ago to split the film in half, even though the entire film is completed.  Allegedly the decision had something to do with the fact that the three hour running time was too long, though the Lord of the Rings and Titanic both seemed to do pretty well.  It seems more likely that the Big Cheese's saw the huge marketing potential of having a multi-part mega-hit, like Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future II & III, or the last two Matrix movies.  The result is, Kill Bill Volume 1 is a cliffhanger, which some people won't be happy with.  Especially since Kill Bill Volume 2 won't be out for several months (probably February). 

Gee, with that much time between releases, it seems like audiences will have to go see Kill Bill Volume 1 again or buy the DVD before Volume 2 comes out, so they won't get lost.  Miramax probably didn't think about that.

Now, what should you expect with Kill Bill?  First of all, it has Tarantino written all over it (not literally), even though it is a bit of a departure from the subject matter of his other films.  At its heart, Kill Bill is in the style of an Asian revenge flick.  It's somewhere between a Spaghetti Western and a Saturday morning kung-fu film from the 70's.  The difference being that it's loaded with style and great dialogue and interesting characters.  Of course, the films that are being paid homage to never had good dialogue and usually had only one interesting character at best.  The result is an interesting mix of influences that's greatly entertaining.

One of the common criticisms of Tarantino is his prolific use of violent imagery.  Without question, Kill Bill is filled with violence.  However, it's over-the-top violence that is simultaneously cartoonish, stylized, and yet effective.  There's more killing in Kill Bill than in several of his other films combined (if there weren't, it would be called Don't Hurt Bill) but it's unlikely to make very many people squeamish.  In fact, the violence is deliberately comical at times, without losing the impact of the violence. 

The film creates a great mood, drawing from a number of disjointed cultures.  The music, the clothing, the sets, everything create a mood.  What kind of mood?  The Masked Reviewer doesn't know.  But the Masked Reviewer likes it.

Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, and Sonny Chiba are the main focal points in this episode, and the acting is excellent across the board.  Chiaki Kuriyama, who those of you lucky enough to have seen Battle Royale will instantly recognize, is another highlight of the film.  Sonny Chiba (of Street Fighter fame (the movie, not the video game (and not the movie based on the videogame starring Jean-Claude Van Damme))) gives a great performance, certainly one of the best of his career.  Uma Thurman as the unnamed hero is compelling to watch in every scene.  Lucy Liu brings a depth an intensity to her role with subtle looks and body language. 

There are a number of other characters that we see in the film, but they won't become important (one assumes) until Volume 2.  So, you'll just have to come back then if you want to see them.

The dialogue, as usual in a Tarantino film, is interesting, cool, and punchy. 

The film features a number of fight scenes.  Sadly, these weren't as excellent as the Masked Reviewer had hoped.  They suffer from too many quick cuts.  The editing does the work that the actors should do, as in Japanese or Hong Kong cinema.  You never get a chance to really marvel at the amazing moves or the epic scope of the battles, because there's a new cut every few seconds.  That's not to say the fight scenes are bad, but they aren't as good as, for example, classic Jackie Chan or Jet Li.  If action weren't such a focus of the film, it wouldn't be a big deal, but as this is an action film, it is quite noticeable.

Our old friend, Woo-ping Yuen is the kung-fu choreographer (you may remember him from such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and all of the Matrix films).  Some might say he's the man responsible for the now greatly overused trend in films to use wires to allow people to do impossible acrobatics.  The Masked Reviewer feels that this trend is now horribly overused.  Those effects have been used in so many films since Crouching Tiger that the impact is completely muted.  Granted, wires have been used in kung-fu films for years, but often combined with actual acrobatics or used sparingly enough to be effective.  Fortunately, the use of wires in Kill Bill isn't excessive, but every time you see someone do a triple backflip or spin wildly while balanced on a narrow rail, you'll know they're there. 

By the way, Sonny Chiba did the sword choreography on the film. 

There are a number of other cameos by famous Asian action stars, too. 

Who will like Kill Bill?  Fans of Tarantino won't be disappointed.  If you didn't like Jackie Brown, Kill Bill may restore your enthusiasm for Tarantino.  If you couldn't stomach the violence in Resevoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction (wuss) then Kill Bill's stylized violence shouldn't be too much to take.  If you like anime, you'll want to check out Kill Bill because it features a well done anime section in the middle.  If you have the hots for Uma Thurman or Lucy Liu (or Viveca Fox), you're sure to find something to be aroused by.  If you like to watch catfights (meow!) this film will make you happy.  If you like schoolgirl uniforms, you'll be happy.  If you like to see women in a role of empowerment, this movie is for you.  If you enjoy Japanese or Hong Kong revenge films, this is right up your alley.  On the other hand, if none of this appeals to you, you might just find it to be silly.  It's certainly a lot closer to From Dusk 'Til Dawn than it is to True Romance (though there aren't any vampires).  And, if you can't stand the thought of a cliffhanger that won't be resolved for several months, well, you might want to spare yourself the torture.

Kill Bill will chop your socks off.  It's sexy, exciting, amazing fun. 


Expectation from the Title: While a young woman is watching her favorite soap opera, she gets a call.  The man on the other end of the line says he wants to talk about an invoice he has for exterminating a giant rat in her basement, but he can't hear her over the TV, so, reluctantly, she reaches for the remote control.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Uma Thurman always looks on the bright side of life, even after all the nasty things that happen to her. 

The Pros: A really cool style, great dialogue, fine acting.  A slick version of the chop-saki 70's revenge flick.  Leaves you wanting more.

The Cons: You're left wanting more, and it's months away.  Could've easily been one movie.  The fight scenes could've been better.


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