By Marc S. Sanders
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the best in Kung Fu films. A cinematic celebration for the eyes amid swords, blood and feminine gusto.
I consider Tarantino a writer of two dimensional characters; people with roll off the tongue names like Elle Driver and the only depth he awards them is to provide a code name like a breed of a deadly snake (Black Mamba, Cottonmouth). Multi dimensional characters are an absolute must for me most of the time. The only time I forgive its absence is when I watch Han Solo, Indiana Jones (circa the original Raiders…) and anything introduced by way of QT. Why? Because with these examples it is the situation and depiction of action that offers more than what you see. A ball and chain with a saw blade is wielded by Gogo, the catholic school girl assassin, and we don’t care so much if it hits its target. Rather we care about its traveling trajectory. The ball will zing through the air, sever a wooden table into splinters and zing back to hit its target in the back of the head. QT can thank his loyal editor, the dearly departed Sally Menke for achievements like this.
None of this is serious. It’s a step by step storyline of revenge by Uma Thurman as The Bride, who is vowing heinous revenge on Bill and his underlings for having the nerve to crash her wedding and leaving her for dead.
Getting from place to place is the glorious fun of the picture, thanks to a rocking soundtrack and actors (Thurman, a stellar Lucy Liu and a brash Vivica A Fox) ready to recite heightened, forthright dialogue that a 10 year old might give to his favorite action figures. “The baseball diamond where I coach little league and we have ourselves a knife fight.” Only assassins from Quentin Tarantino’s glossary talk like this.
Action scenes are not only gorgeously crafted with knife choreography and plenty of martial arts, but there’s almost a slapstick element to it all, along with a comic book feel. Tarantino is a well known Three Stooges fan and beyond being an admirer of cinematic heroes. The Bride doesn’t just spill the blood of her opponents (The Crazy 88), she severs limbs and heads so arteries splurt a never ending spray of blood. By the time the showdown of 1 vs 88 is over, the blood is in such excess, it appears as if the most extreme of pie fights has occurred among the mess. This is Quentin Tarantino with free reign and an unlimited budget to offer up what Kung Fu cinema fondly remembered from the offerings provided by legends like Sonny Chiba (who appears as a legendary sword maker here) and Bruce Lee.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a glory to behold offering a variety of clear cinematography through different lenses (Black & white, red with siren sounds, quiet dual set ups in glowing blue, and the purity of Lucy Liu’s code in a snowy white setting). Following a prenote of “Our Feature Presentation” the picture is bright in color and crisp in sound. Cereal is spilled all over a kitchen floor following a knife fight, and you just adore the crunch beneath The Bride’s feet as she walks out.
Overhead crane shots give an outline of a locale. Scorsese did this for terrifying effect at the end of Taxi Driver. Tarantino uses it as a means for the viewer to be let in on everything The Bride considers or looks for. The 4th film from Quentin Tarantino is so well constructed and so well orchestrated. You see something new with each repeat viewing.