Review by Michael Jacobson
Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah,
David Carradine, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Gordon Liu,
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: Making-Of Featurette, Music Videos, Trailers
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: April 13, 2004
didn’t really think it would be that easy, did you?”
know, for a second there…yeah. I
Tarantino might be absent from the cineplex from time to time, but he’s always
working, always writing, and always imagining his next big project.
Though many years had passed since his last directorial effort Jackie
Brown, fans knew that somewhere, maybe just underneath the radar, this one
time video clerk turned filmmaker was preparing his next cinematic banquet for
vision turned out to be Kill Bill, a love testament to the
out-of-the-mainstream films Tarantino grew up loving. It was so epic, in fact, that he had to split his vision
right down the middle…but so perfect was his vision that even then, he was
able to craft two distinct motion pictures that made up a single story but were
both different in approach and concept. Each
picture could stand alone as dynamic, knockout entertainment, but put the two
together and you have something even greater than the sum of the individual
1 came out
strategically just in time to refresh fans’ memories before heading to the
theatre for the rousing finale of Vol. 2.
Vol. 1 was both acclaimed and a little bit dismissed, depending on
what circles you moved in. For
some, it was pure exhilarating action lovingly crafted by a man who knew his
genres well. For some, it was a
disappointment because it lacked the usual quotable Quentin dialogue and marked
the director’s first true foray in to almost pure action.
But few could deny after seeing both parts just how effective and well
designed Tarantino’s complete project really was.
story? A simple revenge plot.
A character known only as “The Bride” (Thurman) is introduced to us
at the beginning of Vol. 1 as a beaten, bloody victim.
We hear the voice of Bill (Carradine) just before he puts the bullet in
her head that could have ended the story. As
Nancy Sinatra purrs the appropriate “Bang Bang”, the credits roll, which
take us to the first big action sequence: an
all out brawl to the death between The Bride and Vernita Green (Fox), taking
place in a modest suburban home of all places.
see, The Bride was once a member of Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad,
and Bill and his team had shown up at the chapel to strongly express disapproval
of her choosing to leave the outfit and her life of killing behind.
They wiped out the entire wedding party, but the pregnant Bride survived
in a coma for four years. She finally wakes up, realizes she no longer has a baby, and
finds a new purpose to get her out of her atrophic state and back into full
fledged Viper fighting form: she
will indeed kill Bill, and all those who stole her life from her on that fateful
day in El Paso, two of which we only get minor glimpses of in Vol. 1:
the quiet Budd (Madsen) and the vicious Elle Driver (Hannah).
as usual toys with the time sequence for maximum effect.
He has no qualms about taking the audience away from one scene to give
them another before cutting back, but this is never done just for the sake of
flexing empty artistic muscle. He
instead manages to juxtapose scenes together for maximum dramatic impact.
For example, while The Bride slowly tries to will her weakened limbs back
into usefulness, why not take a moment to tell the story of O-Ren Ishii (Liu),
the first on The Bride’s list of people to kill?
a great story in and of itself, and being a lover of many different kinds of
cinema, Tarantino even chooses to tell the story via anime.
It’s a bloody tale of murder and revenge in its own right, and
demonstrates how a part American, part Chinese, part Japanese woman was able to
rise to the rank of supreme crime lord in Japan.
to O-Ren won’t be easy, so The Bride makes a quick stop in Okinawa to meet the
legendary Hattori Hanzo (the equally legendary Chiba), a master sword maker who
comes out of a self-imposed retirement to craft for her the ultimate weapon of
death. But will it be enough to
fight her way through O-Ren’s massive army of bodyguards, the Crazy 88?
answer to that question provides the film with its action climax, an absolute
bloodbath of a piece de resistance that proves Tarantino has mastered yet
another genre: he can now be
equated to any of the great action directors.
It’s clear he’s taken tutelage from the best, and his lessons all
come to fruition in a spectacular and gleefully over-the-top sequence that
combines incredible stunts, superbly and challengingly choreographed fights,
delicate wirework and some of the best camera movements you’re likely to see
in this year or any other year.
Uma Thurman, who delivers a believable performance in a role that requires
intense focus and single-mindedness. She
was obviously well trained in the martial arts and in handling a sword, and her
crucial physical displays of prowess make the action sequences work, while her
investing of the character with heart and soul inspires us to follow her for the
duration…even beyond the ending, when we know there’s more story to come.
true cineastes, Tarantino lovingly dips into his big bag of inspirations to
enthrall us time and time again. From
the opening display of the classic Shaw Brothers’ logo (one of Hong Kong’s
premier martial arts film studios of the 70s) and the old fashioned “our
feature presentation” title screen, he holds nothing back in his attempt to
craft an experience of pure filmmaking. The
quick camera zooms into the eyes and the exaggerated sirens are indicative of
these old films, while the mournful flute sounds and one on one showdowns
reflect the classic spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and others.
The set up for the big fight scene at the end, with its constant
steadicam shots and omnipotent points of view call to mind the work of Brian De
Palma, as does the occasional use of split screen to enhance suspense.
the real genius of Tarantino in this movie is that whether or not you can pick
up on the pieces of homage, you’re going to be thrilled and entertained by
this spectacle. True, it’s one of
the bloodier movies of recent memory, but the violence is all highly stylized as
in the days of the old swordplay films. The
blood flows in fountains instead of oozing in puddles.
Limbs and other body parts fly all over the place, but there’s a
heightened cartoon like quality to it all.
In other words, I don’t think this is the kind of film where you have
to question yourself about enjoying it.
Bill Vol. 1 is
simply a supreme cinematic achievement on many levels; a film made by a film
lover for film lovers. Vol. 2
even manages to surpass it…but that’s a story for another time.
pulled out all the stops in bringing his vision of Kill Bill to the
screen, and this gem of an anamorphic transfer preserves every last precious
frame of it. From his wildly
varying color and lighting schemes, including a gorgeous looking Japan by night,
a sunny California during the day, and even the black and white bits here and
there, every image renders with clarity, contrast and crispness.
No detail is lost. Highest marks.
A good section of the battle with the Crazy 88 is shown in black and
white, but not for stylistic reasons…it was to tone down the violence for an R
rating. Hopefully there is an
unrated special edition of this title looming somewhere in the future.
can’t go wrong with either the Dolby Digital or DTS mixes here…opt for the
DTS for a little extra nuance with background sounds and such.
Whichever you choose, you can expect a full out audio assault filled with
dynamic range, plenty of rear stage action, smooth crossover signals and clean
clear dialogue. As always, the selection of songs by Tarantino is a plus, but
this film also boasts the first original music ever composed for one of his
movies. The RZA crafts some
excellent and memorable tunes to accentuate the action.
only mark against this disc is its lack of generosity in the features
department. The main extra is a
making-of featurette containing interviews with Tarantino, Thurman and many of
the cast members. It’s mostly
interesting for Tarantino citing his inspirations and sources for the film.
There is also a pair of performances by the 5, 6, 7, 8’s and a gallery
of all Tarantino’s trailers, including one for Kill Bill Vol. 2.
The teaser for the first Kill Bill is easily one of THE best
trailers I’ve ever seen…interestingly enough, they digitally changed the red
stains on Uma’s yellow jumpsuit to brown so they looked like mud instead of
blood for the “all ages” trailer!