Review: Kill Bill Volume I

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  October 10, 2003 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

The maniacal mind of director Quentin Tarantino has always been fixated with the world of samurai and kung-fu action genre films. The director has embraced a lot of films in the vein of those old subtitled Bruce Lee movies we all loved in the 1970s. But were they really that great that they need a double-film homage to them? That is basically what the two films that comprise the Kill Bill films are.

Tarantino's first entry in his revenge series finds the central character, the battered and beaten bride-to-be character only known as "Black Mamba" (Uma Thurman), left for dead as her whole wedding party is wiped out by the "Deadly Viper Assassination Squad" (or DiVAS) masterminded by "Bill" (David Carradine).

When "Black Mamba" awakens from her coma, she plans out the vicious extermination of the DiVAS. By the end of the film, two of her prey will fall and Mamba will be knee-deep in blood. The film co-stars Michael Madsen, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, and Julie Dreyfuss as the DiVAS.

Tarantino's passion and obsession with the genre is evident in every frame of his latest film. Tarantino's no-holds-barred action and blood reigns throughout his film and the director seems to be having a lot of fun showing how much he loves what he is filming.

He loves the look, intrigue, and animation of oriental culture but I am not sure if he understands its majesty and soul. Akira Kurosawa, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, embraced the samurai genre and created the immortal Yojimbo. That film is probably the greatest of the genre, and why didn't Quentin try to emulate the majesty of that film instead of crazy linear kung-fu films? If you want to homage this genre, why not look to the best?

I really liked the performance from Uma Thurman, who shows that she has a lot of will and stamina to go through this film. What Tarantino must have put the actress through must have been grueling. Her performance does ring through as a treasure encased in all the blood flung throughout this ultra-violent film. She is magnificent.

There are some obvious tributes to the films of the martial arts genre. One being Uma Thurman's yellow jumpsuit, in the film's giant battle scene, which is very reminiscent of Bruce Lee's immortal costume in Game of Death. Uma's victims in that scene are all wearing masks that are very eerily similar to Jet Li's Black Mask movies. Tarantino's subtle homages could also be seen as a criticism that Bruce Lee would wipe the mat with Jet Li and how much Tarantino loves old school vs. new school kung fu movies. At least that's what I saw in it.

When I went into this film, I was curious to see if Quentin's 200-plus page script had put some depth inside this basic revenge scenario story. There is very little depth here, but the script was probably so huge because Quentin put every little detail into his obsessively calculated action sequences. Quentin is great at doing over-the-top action scenarios drenched in 2 coats of blood and that is basically all Kill Bill is.

In some ways, Kill Bill is lost in translation, but in others it is a blood-soaked, limbs-detaching, samurai-sword ballet. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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