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Kill Bill (Volume One)

01/11/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Kill Bill Volume One in the USA - or Buy Kill Bill Volume One in the UK

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In the intentionally overwrought and gloriously violent-drenched B-movie actioner Kill Bill Tarantino pours it on thick as he chaotically pays homage to the movie genres that he reveres so deeply - creating a concoction of ubiquitous escapist Asian kung-fu flicks along with a dash of redemptive foreign spaghetti westerns.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Miramax Films
1 hr. 30 mins.
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba, Chiaki Kuriyama
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Well, what do you know? Apparently, sensationalized 40 year-old wonderboy filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is back at it again with another exaggerated spectacle that’s frenzied if not stylistically pleasing to the naked eye.

In the intentionally overwrought and gloriously violent-drenched B-movie actioner Kill Bill—Vol. 1, Tarantino pours it on thick as he chaotically pays homage to the movie genre that he reveres so deeply—the concoction of ubiquitous escapist Asian kung-fu flicks along with a dash of redemptive foreign spaghetti westerns.

Kill Bill Movie ReviewThe end result: a reckless and rollicking gem that purposely swims in its inane and preposterous frivolity. Granted, Kill Bill—Vol. 1 is irresponsible in its raucous presentation and Tarantino’s fourth cinematic outing looks to be brash, brainless, sophomoric high-octane junk that resonates with the dizzy senses.

And with that sentiment tossed aside, this high-powered assault of fast-paced foolishness is infectious and grandly inviting in its sardonic wit. In short, Tarantino’s flighty feature film is an over-the-top cinematic stunt that captures the essence of his outrageous quirkiness.

Kill Bill—Vol. 1 will not make anyone forget his fabulously breakout cult favorite in 1994’s Pulp Fiction nor does this current offering feel as coherent and crafty-minded as the 1997 underrated crime caper Jackie Brown. Nevertheless, Tarantino serves up a mindless and subversive revenge thriller that joyously has no need to be taut or conventional in its storytelling mode.

It is the non-conformity and flagrant flourishes that absolutely gives KBV1 its cocky drive and twisted intensity. This is a shifty and senseless blood bath of a picture that doesn’t apologize for its pulsating platitudes. Nor should it. More importantly, Tarantino has fun with a presumptuous project that’s wildly irreverent and schizophrenic that basks freely in its own uncontrollable manic mode.

Tarantino reunites with his Pulp Fiction leading lass Uma Thurman and gives her the keys to steer this hysterically overactive gorefest into delightful numbing overdrive. Thurman stars as The Bride (she’s given no name for the audience to identify although she apparently has one…go figure), a mysterious woman who was seriously beaten up and shot at by a hit squad of assassins then mercilessly left for dead while involved in her special wedding day.

Miraculously, she survives the deadly barrage of her terminators after waking up from a 4-year comatose state. Understandably, The Bride wants to eradicate the wicked ones responsible for her near demise. This chick wants blood and will shed it as randomly and aimlessly as she pleases. Geez, talking about a woman scorned, huh?

Thus, The Bride prepares to seek vengeance on those that dared to eliminate her existence while wiping out her cherished wedding guests in the process. Methodically, she devises a "Death List Five" of the deviant individuals she holds accountable for her previous unfortunate predicament.

In particular, The Bride wants to target former acquaintance Bill (David Carradine from television’s nostalgic Kung Fu series) whose voice she heard before a bullet slammed right into her noggin on that dreadful day of destruction. But in order to Kill Bill (hence the silly-minded title of this film) she must also deal with his mostly estrogen-coated Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or DiVAS for short).

Among the DiVAS that she has some demented issues with on her carefully prepared hit list are Vernita Green a.k.a. Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox). The Bride has a heavy-handed tussle with Vernita in her Pasadena, California home that’s quite imaginative and labored. The confrontation humorously ceases when Vernita’s adorable young daughter unexpectedly pops through the front door from school as the two sexy sirens momentarily stop hacking at one another. The Bride then butts heads with the eyepatch-wearing California Mountain Snake (Daryl Hannah) and yakuza queen O-Ren Ishi a.k.a. Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle).

It’s not long before The Bride ventures off to Mainland China in a place called Okinawa to find more strength regarding her destination of fury that highlights her specific road to perdition. She eventually contacts Hattori Honzo (played by legendary martial arts movie icon Sonny Chiba) and requests that he work on an impeccably flawless sword so that it can further aid her in the quest to finish off some ruthless important business.

It is here in scenic Okinawa that The Bride has her overextended clashing with Liu’s sinister Cottonmouth in a venue known as "The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves". The fascinating sequence of The Bride trying to furiously fight through Ishi’s/Cottonmouth’s sword-wielding protectors before she can get a crack at the gorgeous Asian she-devil is really something to behold. Incidentally, there’s a nice gimmicky touch to the way O-Ren Ishi is introduced courtesy of a complicated childhood shot through Japanese anime.

As most of you know by now, Tarantino chose to split this blood-soaked odyssey by conjuring up two different episodes of this kinetically charged repulsive joyride. There was no way that this film could withstand a marathon of macabre mayhem in one 3-hour sitting no matter how passionately tolerable you are about absorbing shocking cinema.

It was definitely a shrewd move to serve up volumes one and two and sit on the anticipation of potentially enjoying the second rousing half of Tarantino’s perverse kitsch session. This is a tease worth waiting for and every outlandish stroke that Tarantino provides in this digestible flippant fantasy is terrifically toxic. The visual vibrancy is relentlessly magical and indescribable.

By no means is Kill Bill—Vol. 1 a graceful actioner in the tradition of glossy John Woo flicks that have an operatic and majestic vibe to its soul. Tarantino’s cockeyed narrative follows the usual unorthodox filmmaking trademark that made his aforementioned Pulp Fiction become the diluted darling that in was in the mid-nineties.

KBV1 boasts the same energetic flashback scenes that help put potency into the same scene the audience just witnessed. The dialogue is raw and laced with profanities that bring a sense of poetic adventure to the damaged protagonists who utter them as easily as they take in oxygen. The carefully selected music of yesteryear serves as a comfortable layer to fortify the offbeat personality of the film’s strutting overtones.

The characterizations are transparent and despicable but you don’t mind as much because they are expendable by the sheer self-indulgence of their self-inflicted turmoil. And of course the violent nature of this film’s veins pumps with an enthusiastic allure that’s so callously campy yet eye-popping in its cunning delivery.

Yes, one may have a legitimate beef with Tarantino as he may be accused of repackaging an insolent formula that has elevated him to superstardom in the past. And one can certainly cite his propensity for borrowing various movie genres and breathing in his own precarious touches that livens his seemingly patchwork material and makes it a palatable infamous guilty pleasure.

The editing is in need of a vital check up. Plus, Thurman’s one-woman killing machine in KBV1 is nearly not as intriguing or involving as her Oscar-nominated turn as the coked-up Mia Wallace in Fiction despite her athletic tendencies as a badass babe in screaming yellow tights. However, one cannot deny Tarantino the option of entertaining himself or his audience based on the screwy universe that motivates his warped creativity.

Kill Bill—Vol. 1 is definitely flawed beyond belief. Still, I will take Tarantino’s convoluted mediocrity over the desperate copycats that have tried to exploit his brief brand of celebrated moviemaking mockery over the last few years. Hey, what can one say but bring on Volume 2 and let’s delve into the further depths of Tarantino’s entertaining depravity.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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