It’s been half a decade since movie lovers have seen something from writer/director Quentin Tarantino, and I for one was dying to see something new from this gifted director. I’ve loved every film this man has made so far, but I didn’t walk in expecting too much. I didn’t want to fool myself, there was no way this film was going to be better than Pulp Fiction, so I left expectations like that at the door. When I started to read the reviews of this film, which are mixed, I had my doubts to whether or not I would like this film. Shame on me for doubting a guy like Quentin. The first volume to ‘Kill Bill’ is not only an amazing film, it’s one of the best films of 2003. In almost two delicious hours, Tarantino provides us with a blitzkreig of solid characters, a story that is way deeper than you would think and some action that is off the wall astonishing. The only people who might not enjoy this film are those who are too picky about detail, and those who are not a fan of blood. This movie is extremely gory, and while it’s done tastefully most of the time, I would only recommend this for those with strong stomachs. That being said, volume one of ‘Kill Bill’ is worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Tarantino’s work.
On the surface the story looks very simple. From it’s disturbing opening scene, we are sucked right into ‘the Bride’s’ hunger for vengeance. We see why she is pained, and why she needs to kill those who caused her to suffer so much. As a result, the audience fully supports each killing, knowing full well they had it coming. I acutally thought the premise was deceptively simple. Like Tarantino’s previous films, this is a gigantic exercise in style, but there’s more subtle hints to a deeper story for those who pause to reflect between the enormous amounts of bloodshed. I also enjoyed the theme that was inserted concerning the never ending cycle of violence. Even though the Bride might be justified in her killings, it was refreshing to see that she was fully aware that others might also go looking for retribution. She’s aware of the cycle, but accepts it with a sorry heart.
I can’t say enough good things about Uma Thurman. She is perfect in the role as the wronged Bride, who wakes up from a four year coma to seek revenge. This role would have done the movie a horrible injustice had anyone else been cast instead of her. You can clearly see why Tarantino delayed the project to wait for her to become available. It’s the best acting I’ve seen from Thurman ever, and she has no trouble letting the audience know how pained and violated she feels from what happened to her in the church during her own wedding. We feel her pain, we believe that ever tear is geniune, and when she goes on the mother of all killing sprees… her pain and her sorrow make the audience her cheerleaders who all hope the bad dudes get what they have coming to them. While showing us what happened to the Bride may have been a tad graphic, it was necessary for the audience to sympathize with what she was doing and why she had to do it. Had we not witnessed her tragedy, we would have been lost and unable to feel what she was going through, and that would have made all the bloodshed and violence meaningless. The Bride is a complex and very scarred character, coping with loss and betrayal in the only way a deadly assassin knows how.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive. Even though some had less screen time than others (some as little as one line), each has enough time to establish their character, even a little if possible. The hidden role of Bill is played to perfection. We never see his face in volume one, but just the actions of his hands give us enough information to tell us what kind of person Bill really is. He is a powerful yet secretive man, yet at the same time can be outgoing and caring person only towards those he wants something from. Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Lui are just as interesting in their roles as the Brides former co-workers in the assassin industry, yet it was interesting to see how their lives went in completely different directions when it was all over. One became a homemaker, the other a mob-leader. I’m sure there are many who are going to gripe about the fact characters were established only to have nothing done with them, they are missing the point that this film is establishing the story, while the second volume will likely establish the rest of the characters and tie things up. Tarantino is restraining himself for a reason and is holding back crucial plot details and character insights in order to leave the audience hungry for more. Volume one intentionally leaves the audience with a lot of unanswered questions for a reason, namely to make us desperate to see volume two, which worked because February can’t come soon enough for me now.
If you are a fan of Tarantino’s previous work, don’t let the film’s graphic violence let you think this one is any different than his previous three films. ‘Kill Bill’ still has some of the trademark quick-fire dialogue and witty remarks you’re used to seeing in his films. The flow of the film reminded me very much of Pulp Fiction as the film never moves in chronological order, but instead in mixed series of chapters which in turn maximizes the films entertainment value. Had the film moved in order, it wouldn’t have been a little boring so mixing things up was the right way to go. The concluding battle sequence that pits The Bride against Lucy Lui’s henchman (and woman) is simply breathtaking, shot with flawless and very brutal grace. While watching this scene, I had suddenly realized that this is technically Tarantino’s first action film, which is simply astonishing considering the quality. While there is minimal wire work, the scene is spectacular and worth checking out. The homage Tarantino pays to classic kung-fu films is cute to notice, but not necessary to enjoy the film. there’s a little something for everyone, even those who are fans of Japanese animation.
Overall, the first volume of ‘Kill Bill’ exceeded all expectations and is clearly one of the best films of 2003. While I was eager to see more when the film ended, I can almost applaud Miramax for splitting the story into two films. Had we sat there for four and half hours instead of almost two, the film could have dragged on a tad too long and that could have taken away and even ruined the quality and genius of the film. Volume One gives you just enough to make you want to come crawling back in February for more, but enough to make you leave the theatre fully satisfied. It’s an amazing film, one that I think is worth checking out, but only if you can handle the graphic violence…