With a total running time of over four hours, it was decided that Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino’s eclectic homage to everything from the golden era of Hong Kong Kung-Fu cinema to Sergio Leone-style spaghetti westerns, was to be cut into two halves. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 focuses more on the martial art genre (the dusty, lazy vibes of the small-town south come to the fore in Part 2), and boasts enough veteran actors and references to make your head spin (unless you know nothing about these genres, in which case they will blow right over your head).
The opening scene hints at the violence to come; the sleepy tones of Nancy Sinatra play as we are introduced to The Bride, a blood-spattered and heavily pregnant Uma Thurman who is shot on her wedding day. Through a series of ˜chapters’ jumping back and forth, we discover that the Bride was once part of the eponymous Bill’s Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or D.I.V.A.S to you and me,) but eventually found herself the target of one their assassination attempts when she tried to quit the team. The Bride survived a bullet to the head however, and after waking up from a four year coma, finds herself unable to walk, childless and ready for revenge.
One thing is certain: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 has a lot of style. The Bride’s world is one where assassins with superhero-like powers can show up in suburbia, or challenge the boss of the Tokyo underworld, seeking samurai-sword wielding and blood-spurting payback. The colours “lead by the Bride’s bright yellow jumpsuit- pop like those in a comic strip, and Tarantino uses everything from the specific type of blood used by the martial art filmmakers of the sixties and seventies, to an anime-style interlude, to pay tribute to the Kung-Fu movie tradition. But for the layperson, who has not watched every movie Tarantino has ever seen, the substance behind the style may feel confusingly absent and the viewer is often left with the feeling that they are missing a joke that only the director is in on.
However, the calibre of the all-star cast more than makes up for these pitfalls. Audiences are given the opportunity to see some of the best-loved actresses working today at their cold, calculating and ruthless best. But while Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah and Vivica A. Fox are the epitome of badass, by comparison Thurman’s The Bride leaves an ambivalent taste in the mouth and leaves us wondering why she is the Queen badass of them all. It is disappointing that Thurman, who displayed so much charisma as gangster moll Mia Wallace, (complete with iconic bob and a cigarette dangling between her black nails) could come across so lacklustre in the role which was literally dreamt up between herself and Tarantino during a late night chat in the middle of filming Pulp Fiction.
And then there’s Kill Bill‘s approach to violence. The scene where The Bride executes eighty-eight (or there about) bodyguards in quick succession, is so bloody that it infamously only the made it to cinema screens because it was shot in black and white. Tarantino has a talent for mixing the mundane and the extremely violent, which made the crime underworlds in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs seem appropriately surreal and far removed from our own world. But the ˜Crazy 88′ slaughter sequence and a gruesome scene involving an unconscious Bride, an opportunist orderly name Buck and a tub of well-used Vaseline, are so over the top they may prove unpalatable for viewers who enjoyed even the most uncomfortable scenes in Tarantino’s previous films.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is not anchored in reality but in Tarantino’s own desire to indulge his fantasies. Which is fine. Tarantino himself has acknowledged that, ˜I’m making movies for me. Everyone else is along for the ride.’ So if you’re the kind of viewer that likes the films Tarantino likes, then Kill Bill Vol. 1 is the film for you. If not, you might want to pick something else.