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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – Movie Review

Kill Bill, Vol. 1 movie poster

Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

She has no name, she’s just referred to as The Bride (Thurman). She was left for dead, along with the other corpses which made up her wedding party, by her former lover and (apparently) employer, Bill (David Carradine). We’re talking beat the shit out of and shot in the head left for dead. Now, four years later, she’s come out of her coma with a steel plate in her head…and without the baby she was carrying. She very quickly develops a complete and utter mad-on for Bill and her former cohorts, and gets on the trail of killing them. Every last one of them.

I don’t know what I find most disturbing about this film. Is it the extremely harsh, unforgivingly brutal yet amazingly gorgeous violence, all of it orchestrated like some mad ballet? Or is the fact that Tarantino‘s filmmaking prowess has been honed like one of Sonny Chiba’s blades and that his homage to chop socky goodness is flawless? Because it is–it’s flawless. Sure, you can say what you want about how it’s a shallow orgy of death and dismemberment–go ahead, you know, because in one sense, it is. But you can’t see Thurman’s reaction to waking up–alone–and not feel that something else is going on here. The pairing of the opening credits music with what you just witnessed in the prologue–this is not a shallow film. Visceral, demanding and unforgiving, yes–but shallow, hell no.

Thurman is amazing. Who would have thought that in this film, where she gets to play with sharp-edged objects a lot, would be her finest acting to date? She takes what could have, in the hands of a less capable actress and writer/director, been a one-note character: you hurt me, I’ll hurt you back. But she seems to overcome this obstacle by the same sheer force of will she uses to wiggle her toes (long story).

There’s really no weak acting going on–even Fox, who has the least amount of screentime of all the targets that Thurman goes after, has some great moments dealing with the fact she has a family now and really doesn’t feel like dying. Lucy Liu is outstanding–she plays the head burrito of the Japanese underworld with stark viciousness. The showdown between Liu and Thurman is probably the most spectacularly gorgeous fight scene since Crouching Tiger. And of course, Sonny Chiba’s extended cameo as a sword maker is priceless.

Tarantino has created something amazing–people have been saying it was the film his fans were waiting for. Actually, no. I went in expecting a good movie–I didn’t expect what’s ostensibly a balanced masterpiece of humor, violence, pathos, violence and more violence. I’m not sure who we would have expected this from, if anyone. But it’s here, and it’s incredible. Must not be missed.