Quentin Tarantino is back !!
In his first film since 1997's Jackie Brown, Tarantino comes back bloodier, nuttier, and more violent than ever. In this homage to 1970 slice 'em up B-rated Kung Fu movies, he serves up a brilliant piece of work that makes the return from his extended hiatus worth the wait. Although this movie lacks the biting dialogue of Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, it makes up for it with action, a few well placed snaps of humor, and a turn of the screw cliffhanger.
The plot: A woman, known as 'The Bride' (Uma Thurman) awakes from a 4 year coma to find a plate in her head and the baby she was carrying out of her womb. She is bent on revenge against the people who tried to kill her. Once a member of the DiVAS, Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, with the code name 'Black Mamba', she now must track down her fellow lethal serpents and crush their heads. She makes a list of them: Vernita 'Copperhead' Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren 'Cottonmouth' Ishii (Lucy Liu), and in Volume 2 will presumably kill Elle 'California Mountain Snake' Driver (Daryl Hannah), Budd aka 'Sidewinder' (Michael Madsen) and of course Bill (David Carradine).
After The Bride lifts from her coma, she stabs westward to find the first two marks on her list, Vernita and O-Ren. Vernita now is now a suburban L.A. soccer mom, and the ambitious O-Ren is now the Empress of the Japanese crime world. She cuts in right away to her task of getting payback for the years and child that her ex-cohorts took from her.
Tarantino blends live action with anime, which probably got it around the ratings board for the pedophilic visual reference it makes in the the back-story of O-Ren Ishii. I think the film spends too much time on the O-Ren/Bride subplot. The sword fight in a Japanese restaurant has a ridiculous amount of hack and slash, blood, and gore. It was overkill, and I mean that in many senses. There are some highlights, such as the battle between Thurman and Ishii's 17 year old, school-girl uniform clad, mace wielding bodyguard Go-Go (Chiaki Kuriyama), and finally the ultimate confrontation between O-Ren and The Bride. I think the movie could have given an equal balance to the stories between Vernita Green and O-Ren. The latter went on too long, while the former was somewhat brief-and might I add more intense and somewhat comical.
Kill Bill comes off a lot like a martial arts B-movie, complete with yellow subtitles. However the way Tarantino pulls it off sheer genius. He mixes genres and mediums seamlessly. There is his trademark use of retro soundtracks, use of actors from previous films, and out of sequence scenes. He makes smart use of martial arts trademarks; his casting of Sonny Chiba as a master swords craftsman, the fighting style, Uma Thurman dresses in an outfit similar to what Bruce Lee wore in his final film, and blood squirting from severed limbs like Old Faithful. It was choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen, but don't expect too see too many fights breaking the laws gravity and physics in this venture.
Tarantino also does something very clever, leaving us exactly in the middle of the story, with an interesting bit of information. He's left us with an ending that causes to viewer to question what may have happened afterwards, but this time we will actually get to find out. What we don't hear (at least not in this part) is why Bill and the DiVAS tried to kill The Bride (who's name is bleeped out each time it is mentioned). Nor do we find out why they've presumably disbanded. We don't know whom the person was The Bride was going to marry, even though she was carrying Bill's child. These and other questions will be answered in Kill Bill Vol. II (I hope).
One thing I have to credit the director for is his choice of actors. I've always liked Thurman, and I am glad that she was decided upon for the lead role. This is a far cry from the drug-using Mia Wallace in "Pulp Fiction", in fact Tarantino delayed filming this movie until Thurman was able to get back in shape from having children. Vivica Fox was just right for the part of Vernita ("I should have been the mother-fucking Black Mamba") Green. The conversation between she and Thurman during the brief respite from their knife fight was about as witty as the dialogue got. The only part of David Carradine we got to see was his handkerchief clasping hand, and Madsen and Hannah's parts were slight, but we will see more of them in Vol. II. Getting much attention for her role as the Chinese/Japanese/American heritaged O-Ren Ishii is Lucy Liu, who just seems to be reprising her Ling Woo character from "Ally McBeal". Once again she is playing the part of a Dragon Lady. Liu, a very talented and lovely actress is coming dangerously close to typecasting herself. She has stated in interviews that she wants to bring Asian-American actresses in U.S. movies and television mainstream, but at the rate she's going that isn't going to happen. Even though her character in this movie is a formidable one, it limits her. Perhaps she should take a tip from Michelle Rodriguez and only accept roles that will further her as an actress and help her break from the ethnic mold.
Kill Bill was produced by Lawrence Bender (my eternal crush) who worked on Tarantino's other films, and atones for his earlier debacle in The Knockaround Guys. I look forward to the second installment and seeing Bill Killed.
Notes: A worthy return by Tarantino and Thurman.
Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: Kill Bill kills !
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