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Kill Bill: Volume 1
2003 - R - 110 Mins.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman Vivica Fox Lucy Liu Daryl Hannah David Carradine
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
The driver in the other lane just cut you off and flipped you the bird. Or your best friend just hit the motel with your significant other and stuck you with the bill. So what do you do when someone’s done you wrong and you don’t know how to write a Country song? Sages through the ages have advocated that we exercise restraint: turn the other cheek, if you’re set on revenge remember to dig two graves… But there are those days when you just need to get mad and even.

For the Bride, what should have been the happiest moment of her life is almost the end of it: ambushed at her wedding by her former colleagues in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, she’s critically wounded and left for dead. Waking from her coma four years later she sets about writing up her to do list. And that’s one day planner you don’t want to be scheduled in.

Movie insiders were beginning to wonder if “Kill Bill” would ever be completed: with an ever evolving and expanding script that almost topped 200 pages, extended shoots, multiple locations, seemingly endless cuts, and a run time that just kept getting longer (hence Volume 1 and 2), things did not bode well. Shows you how much they know.

Anyone familiar with Tarantino’s work (and if you’re not, welcome back to planet earth) knows that they’re in for a heavy dose of self-indulgence and a little pomposity when the lights go down. And this film is no exception. Thankfully, however, here it’s not in the same verbal masturbatory vein that made “Jackie Brown” virtually unmatchable. Other Tarantinoisms that you can expect are interesting characters, great action sequences, and intertwining story lines that fold in on one another.

The initial transition from the kitschy warm-up to brutal opening sequence leaves no doubt that this is going to be an intense ride indeed. Along the way, Tarantino pays homage to blaxploitation flicks, 70’s martial arts films (evident in the casting of kung fu icon Sonny Chiba and Thurman’s character’s “Game of Death” jumpsuit) and Japanese samurai cinema, turning their worst into his best. Ego and acting ability aside, the man must be recognized for his creativity.

Tarantino utilizes simple techniques to dramatic effect – skewed camera angles, quick edits and near monochromatic shots are powerful without being tacky, while garish props ( Dr. Seuss style houses, and city sets meant to look fake) create an almost campy atmosphere. And once again, he has managed to achieve an evocative near perfect symbiosis of music and scenery (I’m predicting huge sales of the soundtrack). In addition, the extended biographical anime sequence is brilliantly executed (literally and figuraitvely).. And lest we forget, the revenge.

This being the adrenaline installment of the series you can expect Itchy and Scratchy style big, messy death, but with a gaudy sense of panache. It is a testament to his abilities that Tarantino is able to devise hyper-violent scenes that make you laugh in spite of yourself, yet also crafts that one drawn out scene that makes you cringe as you peak through your fingers. The coup de lac grace is the encounter at the House of Blue Leaves which is without hyperbole THE BEST ACTION SEQUENCE PUT DOWN ON FILM SINCE THE INVENTION OF THE MOVING PICTURE. Okay, I might be overstating it a tad, but it is seriously impressive: it took two months of filming to capture roughly twenty minutes of non-stop martial mayhem that includes katanas, decapitations, industrial sized buckets of blood, low key wire work, incredibly intricate fight choreography and some wonderfully witty dialogue. And the final showdown borders on the poetic - I’d love to share, but even with spoiler alerts I’d have to duck death threat spams for the next six months… Oh, I almost forgot about the cast.

Uma Thurman is ideally cast as the Bride: her largely unexpressive nature meshes perfectly with the character’s wronged-revenge-driven-former-assassin and her cold blooded delivery leaves you slightly unsettled. Thurman undoubtedly did a lot of training to prepare for the physical requirements of the role, as she acquits herself quite well in the action sequences as well. Darryl Hannah, looking the worse for wear, has apparently found her niche delivering largely monosyllabic stoic tough gal dialogue - it’s surely the first role where she borders on the believable (within the context of the story that is). And of course there is Lucy Liu, who has made a career of playing off-kilter pan-Asian characters with a penchant for nastiness, except this time however she goes the extra yard and takes a few heads in the process. It’s almost poetic.

Tarantino delivers a film that is visually innovative, flows well, boasts astonishing action, and sounds great too. Why couldn’t this have been his third film?

 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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