Blood, battle, vendetta, violence, and well…more blood. Quentin Tarantino does not hold back with his Americanized take on martial arts cinema with Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003). As the story goes, both volumes to Kill Bill were intended to be one entire chronicle of a film. As principal photography wrapped for this wild animal of a saga, Tarantino and the producers decided it would be best to break the movie into two parts. This way nothing had to get cut, including the dramatic cartoon cutaway in the style of Japanese anime, and the ridiculously infatuating final fight scene; both lasting just under ten minutes each! Two reasons why this film is so damn entertaining. Yes, everything got to stay in by breaking the story into two movies, but I cannot help but hear “CHA-CHING!” One blockbuster epic, turned into two?! Meaning two box office hits?! Double the gross?!
Anyway, Tarantino decides to tell this in what he knows best … in a non-linear way, but to save the confusion we shall proceed chronologically. Volume One opens with following the story of the Bride (Uma Thurman) as she lies brutally beaten on the floor of a wedding chapel, having just been ambushed by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a crew she was once a part of. She cries out to the leader, Bill (David Carradine), that she is pregnant with his child as he abruptly cuts her words off and shoots her in the head. Four years later, now with a metal plate in her skull, and sadly without child, the Bride awakens from a coma hungry for revenge towards the squad. The squad, excluding the Bride, consists of five other members: Bill, Budd, Elle Driver, O-Ren Ishii, and Vernita Green. The Bride has plans to take each member down and kill one at a time. Starting with Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), the Bride shows her mastery in knives with this initial encounter. The two engage in a knife fight until Tarantino slides in a moment of humor as Vernita’s daughter’s school bus arrives outside. Now living a regular, suburban life, Vernita decides to pause and play it cool, despite her destroyed house filled with broken glass and furniture due to the fight. The Bride concludes to not kill Vernita in front of her young daughter and agrees to meet Vernita at night to settle the matter. Then suddenly Vernita tries to shoot the Bride with a pistol hidden in a box of cereal, the Bride throws a knife into Vernita's chest, killing her.
Next, the Bride decides to move on and face O-Ren (Lucy Liu) in Japan. While in Japan, the Bride spends a month training and obtains a sword from legendary swordsmith Hattori Hanzō, who has his own personal resentment towards Bill. The Bride tracks down O-Ren to a restaurant in Tokyo. And if things were not crazy enough, this is where Tarantino takes it to the next level. After amputating the arm of O-Ren’s assistant, Sofia, the Bride takes on a series of waves and levels of O-Ren’s squad of elite, mixed martial arts fighters, called “the Crazy 88”. Yes, 88 experience fighters versus one woman. This is a complete blood battle, where the prop team probably asked Tarantino, “how much blood do we need?” and he said “Yes!” In an outrageous, cartoonish, yet violent and somehow comical way, the Bride severs the limbs, heads, and other body parts of the fighters, leaving the restaurant filled with the color red. There’s even a moment where the film turns black and white, then back to color, then flooded with blue light…all paced to cinematic camera shots and thematic music! I mean, anything else I say about his scene will NOT do it justice, so just go watch the scene itself!
Finally, after defeating all 88 fighters, the Bride takes on O-Ren, a moment leading up to a feeling of facing the final boss in a video game. The two are led to duel outside in the restaurant's Japanese garden. The duo battle back and forth until the Bride gains the upper hand and slices off the top of O-Ren’s head, killing her. After torturing Sofie for information about Bill, the Bride leaves her alive as a dangerous message. Bill discovers Sofie and inquires as to whether the Bride realizes that her daughter is still alive, leaving the episodic film at a cliffhanger and open for the second volume.
If Tarantino were its own genre, the director has become a master of showing off his own genre, and Kill Bill Vol. 1 may be the most Tarantino genre it can get! (I know crazy right). The director has stated that “I kind of wanted each of [the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad] more or less, represent some sub-genre in exploitation cinema or action cinema… so [the Bride] is fighting her way through genre cinema.” And that’s exactly what we see with Kill Bill Vol. 1. Between the Kung-Fu-styled fight scenes, pacing, and editing with the elusive character encounters filled with comedic tones, which are all accompanied by stylistic soundtracks, it makes this movie the most kick ass Tarantino film. By turning a simple plot, into a stylistic, action frenzy, Tarantino outdoes himself with little to no hiccups on the way… you just might need to be able to accept the blood and gore!
Story/Plot – 17/20 Direction – 19/20 Acting - 17/20
Cinematography – 19/20 Score/Soundtrack – 19/20
The Founder of @HennionProductions,