Running time: 111 minutes (Vol. 1), 136 minutes (Vol. 2)
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Julie Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sonny Chiba, Chia Hui Liu, Michael Parks, Perla Haney-Jardine
|Two down, 86 to go.|
There is not a great deal to the story, basically being a revenge movie, following The Bride (real name Beatrix Kiddo) (Thurman), who, after finding she is pregnant, quits her career as an assassin and runs away to live a regular life. Her boss and her baby's father, Bill (David Carradine) does not take kindly to this and tracks Kiddo down and calls in her ex-colleagues, the other members of the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad to slaughter the regular family Kiddo intended to marry into and leaving the pregnant Bride for dead. Five years later, she awakes from a coma, childless, and proceeds to wreak bloody vengeance.
|The making of O-Ren Ishii.|
Volume 1 is Tarantino’s homage to the countless hyper-violent Eastern movies he clearly grew up on, such as Shogun Assassin (which is even name-checked in Volume 2) and Lady Snowblood. There are so many great ideas sprawling all over the film that the first time round you’re bound to miss some, which makes repeat viewings very rewarding. One of the most memorable parts is the back-story of Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii, told entirely in anime. Instead of being a jarring distraction as you might expect, artistically it works brilliantly, really helping the character to stick in the memory. Another scene that jumps out is where The Bride entreats retired sword-smith Hattori Hanzo (a cameo from the legendary movie martial artist Sonny Chiba) to make her a sword, and we pause for a long but absorbing discussion about perfectly made swords. Despite these terrific moments, the film seems like a long lead up to the climactic show down in The House of Blue Leaves where The Bride takes on O-Ren’s Crazy 88 before dispatching the woman herself. This takes up pretty much the final third of the first film and is simply staggering - the best example I have yet seen of movie violence as high art. Witness the fountains of spurting blood, the running along banisters, or the moment where the lights go out and the fight continues in silhouette. These are just three moments out of a myriad of virtuoso shots. For sheer bravado it trumps anything in Volume 2.
A huge amount of kudos goes to Uma Thurman in these films – in her portrayal of The Bride she has created an icon every bit as recognisable and everlasting as Holly Golightly, Ellen Ripley or Marla Singer. It is not hard to see why Tarantino considered her his muse.
|The Bride, at a wedding rehearsal she won't soon forget.|
|Training with Pai Mei.|
The late David Carradine also hits the mark, playing Bill with just the right balance of endearing warmth and bubbling-under psychosis to make you like him but stay wary of him. His obvious charm did make me a little concerned that The Bride wouldn’t be able to finish her mission to kill Bill, but the final fight, understated as it was, is just what was required, with Bill going out with dignity instead of a geyser of violence and blood, and The Bride grieving for the man she once loved, yet still strong enough to do what she must. Volume 2 is slightly better, but they should most definitely be viewed as a single four-hour movie.
Kill Bill Volume 1: 9/10
Kill Bill Volume 2: 9/10
Despite the Mail's meltdown, there is a lot of love out there for Kill Bill, like this review by Matt and, notably, Mr. Ebert hisself (Volume 1 & Volume 2).