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Kill Bill: Volume 1

Miramax // R // October 10, 2003
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 17, 2003 | E-mail the Author
In 1992, young upstart director Quentin Tarantino turned the film industry on its ear with Reservoir Dogs. The ear was then sliced off. Two years later, Pulp Fiction was blah blah blah blah blah critical acclaim blah blah blah cult classic blah blah revolutionary. In short, the young punk made a name for himself.

Problem is, the sheer weight of Tarantino's name has been sort of a mixed blessing since he burst onto the scene just over ten years ago. Although a fine picture in its own right, Jackie Brown--the 1997 follow-up to Pulp Fiction--recieved mixed reaction from fans and critics alike. While he has kept himself moderately busy since then (even as a guest star in Alias last year), Quentin remained mostly out of the public's unflinching eye for the past five years.

Kill Bill opened at #1 last weekend, so he's back under the microscope.

For months now, we've seen the trailer..."The 4th Film By Quentin Tarantino." In fact, that's one of only a few things about Kill Bill that really bugs me. Diehard fans have counted the number of films he's made already, and everybody else likely wouldn't care how many he's made. Sure, the guy's got a king-sized ego. But despite the rambling up until this point, we're not here to discuss the director himself...only the work he's put on the table.

His past work has been analyzed to death. Heck, Kill Bill is in the process of being analyzed to death already (this being the fourth review of it here on DVD Talk), but guess what? Tough. I paid for my ticket, and I want to share what I got out of it. This review will be even less of a plot recap than usual for me, but there's still a few mild spoilers ahead.

First of all, the thing that struck me the most about Kill Bill (besides for the decapitations) was the storytelling style. Sure, we've got the usual "chapter titles" and everything, but I think there's more onscreen text than any movie I've seen in the past three years. From the strange cuts to the detailed character introductions, it's easy to see that Quentin Tarantino has wanted to make this movie for a long time. Everything about it reflects a love for movies, which is why it works. It's entertaining. It's action-packed. And any movie that features both Japanese animation and Kaboom breakfast cereal is worth my $7.50, let me tell you. Bonus points were also awarded for the ShawScope logo (a martial arts movie staple), not to mention the cool 70's-style "Feature Presentation" introduction.

True, Kill Bill isn't the most original movie---it borrows heavily from several genres and directors---but it's successful in the same way that Beck's album Odelay was; the "genres-in-a-blender" thing makes for one strange ride. It never overstays its welcome at a brisk 111 minutes, either...although there's a reason for that. Known to most fans already, the entire story runs nearly three hours in length, but has been split into two smaller parts. I think this was a good move, really...three hours would seem like overkill in one sitting, and it only increases the excitement for Kill Bill: Volume 2.

It's hard to talk about Kill Bill and not mention the ridiculous amount of violence onscreen. For the most part though, the violence is so over-the-top, it's hard to get worked up about it. Limbs are severed. Arterial spray is in abundance. There's even a scalping! Still, this is the same type of violence seen in films like Ichi the Killer and even know there can't possibly be that much blood in the human body, so sit back and enjoy the show.

Another way this movie keeps you on your toes is the constant sense of danger throughout. Near the climax of Kill Bill (although it seems like the film has four or five), "The Bride" (a revenge-seeking Uma Thurman) takes on a room full of sword-weilding fighters. You know who wins in the end, but I dare you not to be on the edge of your seat. Equally enthralling is a scene featuring beautiful Japanese tells the bloody origin story of O-Ren Ishiii, played as an adult by Lucy Liu (earning back some points she lost in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. It's great to see this wedged smack in the middle of an American movie that opened at #1 in the box office. Thankfully, though, this scene was devoid of tentacles. While I'm sure most Tarantino fans have seen their fair share of anime, it's nice to see this great style get represented better than that crappy Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoon.

Enough gushing...there's a few things that bugged me about Kill Bill (aside from the tagline). While the camera tricks and frequent use of text help keep things moving, one can't help but feel it's a little gratuitous at times. Another thing that bothered me a little was the aforementioned "climax", with the room full of fighters. During the large majority of the fight, the color is sucked out of the screen. Whether this was a stylistic choice or a demand of the MPAA is debatable, but it's pretty distracting. During the trailer (when "The Bride" runs up the railing with her sword drawn), the scene is shown in full color, while the theatrical version is black and white. Either way, I'd really be interested in hearing a commentary on this when the DVD is released. Speaking of which, I'm also curious as how the DVD schedule will be handled. Personally, I hope both volumes will released at the same time, in a big old three-disc set with tons of cool extras! But I digress.

Anyway, I'm already talking about the DVD, so that about wraps 'er up. Be sure and read the other three DVD Talk reviews...they cover some points which I felt didn't need repeating. Overall, Kill Bill was a highly entertaining picture that no doubt has tons of replay value...I wouldn't mind watching it again, and I just saw it this afternoon! Do yourself a favor this week and check it out if you haven't already. In the meantime, I'll be waiting patiently for Volume 2.

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Highly Recommended

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