With Kill Bill Vol. 1 Quentin has created an excellent homage
to Grindhouse cinema. He references absolutely everything he loves: De Palma,
Switchblade Sisters, Shaw Brothers films (it actually opens
with the shaw scope logo), Chushingura, italian Giallos, Master
of the Flying Guillotine, etc, etc. The film has an amazing
amount of gore and some pretty good fight choreography. Too
bad it’s so drawn out and totally friggin’ boring.
Prepare yourself for one disjointed review.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is the story of the Blood Spattered Bride
(Uma Thurman). She’s just known as the Bride or Black
Mamba throughout the film. Her real name is always concealed
by a test tone that pops up every time someone tries to speak
it. The main story is The Bride was pregnant and getting hitched
when the members of her old assassin squad place a hit on
her. They kill her husband, her wedding party, the preacher,
and Bill lodges a bullet in her head. She doesn’t die,
of course, but lays in a coma for four years. Upon awakening
she’s out to seek revenge. Climbing up the ranks, killing
every former team member until she finally reaches Bill.
The film starts out with a bloody Uma Thurman being taunted
by Bill and eventually being shot in the face. The credits
roll and we finally end up outside the house of the #2 killer
on her list, Vernita Green (she’s already taken care of
#1), played by Vivica Fox . Of course she goes in and whups some ass, eliminating
said team member in a matter of minutes. The scene is cool,
funny, and fresh. This is where the problems start. The film is told
in a chapter format, so every 15 minutes or so a new chapter
header comes up. Chapters 2-5 then flash back at varying intervals
to show you how she recovered from the attack, and how she
took out the first killer on her list, O-Ren
Ishii (Lucy Liu), aka: Cottonmouth. There is actually a whole chapter for the
backstory on Ishii’s character that’s done in
a complete Anime style. It’s cool and fresh for a while,
but gets drawn out much too long. It also sucks that Ishii’s name
is never pronounced correctly. Or Samurai. Or Nippon. Or a
host of other Japanese words. With an entire Japanese crew
surrounding him, you’d think Quentin’d know that Ishii
is pronounced nothing like Eazy-E.
Which leads me to another list of gripes. Why is Bill’s
face never shown? You know it’s David Carradine. You’ve
seen his face in the trailer. There is no reason for him to
have some mysterious Dr. Claw aspect. Besides, I thought Uma
was supposed to Kill Bill in 2003. Guess we’ll wait
But there's more. Quentin has Sonny Chiba to work with, but
completely wastes his talent by casting him as a sushi-chef/swordsmith
who speaks broken English. I can understand covering up Lucy
Liu's lack of acting talent by having her speak primarily
bad Japanese, but to do that to Sonny Chiba, the Street Fighter?
That's way uncool. Sure he may be a bit paunchy now, but I’d
still like to see him kick some ass.
Quentin also seems to think you can learn all you need to know
about Japan from Shaw Brother’s films. Wrong country,
buddy! He’s like a tourist who’s visited Japan
once and decided to go native.
The end fight at the House of the Blue Leaves? The maximum
coolness you saw in the trailer? There is absolutely no tension
in this fight. You know Uma survives and kills Lucy Liu because
you saw her name crossed off the list at the very beginning
of the film! Halfway into the fight everything goes black
and white. There’s no stylistic reason for this, other
than the fact that the FRUC (Fascist Regime of Uber Censorship
aka the MPAA) happens to let bloody scenes pass uncut as long
as the red stuff isn’t red. The trick worked in Evil
Dead and it worked again here. At least the effects by KNB
and the shot compositions are amazing.
There is absolutely no reason for this film to be divided
in two. Both Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown clocked in at 154
minutes. If Quentin wasn’t so in love with his own footage
he could cut the extraneous 25+ minutes from the film and
just have one nice little package. As it is now, Quentin gets
to sell you two movie tickets, two soundtracks, and two DVD
GAH! I haven’t been this disappointed with a film in
quite some time. It’s done nothing but further prove
to me Quentin is an arrogant braggart with an intense love
for bad bad movies.(He is the guy who claimed Days of Thunder
was a work of genius). The dude receives much too much respect.
If Quentin wasn’t so in love with himself he may be
able to make a better film. Until that day, I’ll have
to pass on his latest crapfest.
I’m still unsure of why Tarantino is so revered. Yes,
he has excellent shot composition and an excellent ability
to share his “Hits of the ‘60s” CDs. But
here we are again, watching recycled scenes and chopped up
timelines. I realize that’s his “hook”,
but in redundancy, its more of a nuisance. Also, it was cleaner
and craftily edited in Pulp Fiction. In Kill Bill it looked
like some college film student threw it together, typed up
the chapter marks on an antiquated Toaster program and didn’t
even bother to sync the fonts.
While I applaud Tarantino for actually using Japanese actors
(for the most part) to portray Japanese characters, his foray
into melding Chinese fight choreography and storylines seems
sloppy and disrespectful. Compare the intensely rich self-sacrifice
of Chushingura with a slap-happy Hong Kong revenge flick and
any fool could tell the difference. I felt as though he just
wanted things to “look cool” without doing his
homework. Once again, there’s no moral, no fitting storyline.
But kicking ass and hilarious shock gore is what he does best,
and there are many mutilated limbs and decapitations (props
to KNB EFX again!) to keep the easily queasy squirming and
the hardcore junkies cheering.
There were great moments, though, with the addition of Chiaki
Kuriyama (Battle Royale) as a heartless medieval-steel-ball
swinging assassin/chief bodyguard of Ishii. This girl (pictured
below) has the presence and the charisma of a true actress.
Its too bad her skills (beyond her short school-girl uniform)
aren’t fully utilized. She has one great line then splat!
In all fairness, I am not a Tarantino fan. And I _really
tried. I do enjoy his enthusiasm and knowledge, but I seriously
doubt his movies would work if not for the casting agents.
That’s the real gem in his productions. The only reasons
I saw Pulp were Uma Thurman and John Travolta. Uma and David
Carradine for Kill. My mother’s crock-pot lid was shattered
on one of my youthful emulating runs of Carradine’s
character in Kung Fu (where he carries a piping hot urn with
his bare forearms). I’ll bet he'll have that great wrinkly
lookie; a villain with kind, droopy teddy-bear eyes. It will
hopefully all be redeemed once Uma and Carradine are in frame
together. Keeping my fingers crossed Tarantino didn’t
choose to cheese it up too much.