Quentin Tarantino makes his triumphant return to filmmaking with Kill Bill, a deliciously sick and stylish revenge movie that blends so many genres together you won't know what hit you.
His last movie came out in 1997 under the title of Jackie Brown, and despite an excellent cast failed to do much at the box office. Nevertheless, with his debut film Reservoir Dogs and follow-up Pulp Fiction making its way into many Top Ten lists, Tarantino quickly became known as one of the most exciting directors of the decade. It obviously says something when Kill Bill, only his fourth movie, is marketed as just such: "The fourth movie by Quentin Tarantino." So, despite the fact that some people have been confused by the apparent cheese factor of this latest film, there was a lot of anticipation among his fans and non-fans for Kill Bill. It is here at last - well, half of it.
Uma Thurman stars as Black Mamba, an assassin who was left for dead four years ago when her boss, Bill, the father of her child, tried to have her killed at her wedding. Those four years have passed and she is now alive and kicking - literally - and looking for revenge. But before she goes after Bill, she has to teach the members of the death squad that were there to witness her "death" a lesson - by killing them one-by-one. She has five people on her list, including Bill, and we get to see her kill two of those five here in the first half of the story.
Yes, the title of this specific movie is Kill Bill Vol. 1, meaning that there will be a Vol. 2 (due out in February 2004). The decision to split the movie was evidently based around money, as Miramax has the opportunity to essentially make more than twice as much money with the two films as it did with one four-hour film. Of course, having a movie end as abruptly as this one does is as frustrating as having to wait for The Matrix to conclude in November, only here Kill Bill is so kick-ass and entertaining that it will be very hard to wait four months to see the conclusion...
Anyway, Thurman takes center stage for her first mainstream movie since 1998's The Avengers (I wonder why), and she makes quite the return. She is almost as bad as the people she is killing, but plays the character so well that it is impossible not to root for her (besides, she has a reason to kill them). I haven't been a huge fan of Thurman in the past, but she blew me away here - she is as lethal and slick as any character to grace the silver screen.
Of course, the real star of the movie is Tarantino himself; no, he doesn't make an appearance, but his flavor is evident in every detail of the movie. Like his other movies, Kill Bill does not flow chronologically - in fact, he has split the movie into chapters with such titles as "Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves." He isn't afraid to do strange things, as anything strange that he does turns out to be beneficial for the movie. There is even a long segment of animation as he tells the bloody story of Lucy Liu's rise to terror (this segment is by far the weakest part of the movie). Amazingly, gone is much of the swearing that has graced his other films, but has been replaced by even more gore, however cartoonish it may be. Limbs fly and blood sprays in fountains, literally. Like his other movies, nothing is meant to be taken without a slight grain of salt - as serious as the plot is, Kill Bill in many ways is meant to be a comedy, and only Tarantino (well, and maybe a couple other directors) can blend everything together so seamlessly. I mean, how many other directors can make you laugh so guilt-free at watching arms, feet and heads being cut off while the walls are splattered with blood?
Best of all is the music, which I think is where Tarantino's magic really lies. His other movies benefit the same way; Tarantino uses nostalgic, feel-good oldies to carry some of the most disturbing scenes ever caught on film. Kill Bill uses the strategy and it works effectively, especially as this half nears its conclusion.
Kill Bill isn't perfect, though. The fight scene with Lucy Liu is disappointingly short and anticlimactic. The animation sequence is a little dull. A few scenes lag here and there.
Of course, if a movie's flaws can be wrapped up in one, short paragraph, that says something, doesn't it? Despite a few flaws, Kill Bill has a lot going for it - the style of Tarantino, the grace of Thurman, some absolutely awesome action scenes and a fair amount of gore (to be honest, this film was deemed as ultra violent, but I really did not find this movie even half as disturbing or gory as I was expecting and hoping for). The aforementioned "Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves" will go down as one of the best action sequences ever, and the fight with Vivica A. Fox ain't too shabby, either.
It is hard to put into words exactly what Kill Bill is, as it is a kung fu movie with a distinctly Tarantino approach. It is a drama, comedy and action film all rolled into one nice package, but unfortunately only half the package is here. We'll have to wait until February to see what Kill Bill is really like, but one thing is for certain: come that day, I will be anticipating it greatly.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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