Running time: 111 mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Six years would go by. Hold all the calls, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, QT was on the DL for over half a decade. The reason? It’s on Vol. IV of 20 Years on the QT aka Kill Bill: Vol. 1. When Tarantino pitched the idea to the suits it was as one movie but post production brought it in at four hours and rather than do a Gangs of New York (the first cut came in at eight hours) they opted to chop it in half rather than butcher it.
The Bride (Thurman) wakes from a coma having been attacked by her employer and colleagues at her wedding and left for dead. Back on her feet she sets out on a “roaring rampage of revenge” against all involved and everyone who stands in her way.
The concept for the film is credited to Quentin and Uma, story has it they came up with the character of The Bride while filming Pulp Fiction before the writer/director took it away and spent the bones of a decade building a narrative around the character…or at least that is what he’d have you believe. The chinned one has a habit of “borrowing” scenes, lines of dialogue, entire narratives from cinema he’s confident his audience (the Mainstream cinematic audience) are unfamiliar with. Kill Bill: Vol 1 is the worst example of this to date. Where Reservoir Dogs was heavily linked to City on Fire and Pulp Fiction owed more than you’d be comfortable with to Bande á Part, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is the cinematic equivalent of a mixed tape of Asian martial arts movies. To recite them all would be to waste my time, if you want to know them click [here], but the truth of the matter is that narratively the film is at it’s most interesting when you’re playing “spot the rip-off”. It’s taken to such extremes that it’s actually offensive to be asked to pay for the film, what exactly was going on for six years? The only thing positive to say about it is at least it’s entertainingly put together. It’s superficial visual popcorn that won’t let you get too deep into the story because there’s no story; there’s only set pieces. They’re colourful and sensory stimulating and cheap, though it does cost a lot of money to look that cheap.
The cinematography is as unsophisticated as the narrative, gone are the wondering graceful moments of “happened-upon” cinema of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and replaced by a tirade of mind numbingly forceful photography with either nuance or complexity. The colour palette is nice but at that it only serves to remind you of a hundred other movies you’d much rather be watching.
Thurman is great. That goes without saying but she really is. She has a physicality that is unrivalled by any female lead working in cinema in the modern age with the exception of, perhaps, Angelina Jolie who has made a name on being fisty (leave it). She showcases fleeting moments of humanity and emotion and they are her best moments because when the film is in action mode and the dialogue is so heavily thumped at that it’s not hard to picture Tarantino standing just off camera miming along and telling everyone how incredibly brilliant he is. David Carradine is a disappointment, not to speak ill of the dead but he was never the greatest actor and somehow manages to make English sound like his second language but was most likely cast as “Tarantino’s career revival project”. Similarly I don’t buy Vivica A. Fox, like Regina Hall she has a tone that flatlines along in everything she does and only ever makes me switch off. Lucy Liu plays it safe, Michael Madsen is two dimensional but thank the good lord for Daryl Hannah (Elle Driver) and Julie Dreyfus (Sofie Fatale) these two women are amazing; they are the type of actors that Exploitation cinema either couldn’t attract or got lucky and made themselves. They can be watched on mute through a shop window in the middle of a hurricane and still be incredible.
Tarantino wanted desperately to made a Shaw Brothers film, so much so that he flipped every gimmick, trick and out of date stylistic he could to make it feel like he was reinventing the genre but the truth of the matter is the only thing amazing about this film is how much he thought he could get away with stealing. Just because you have a video rental card doesn’t mean you’re a fucking auteur!