Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)


I return to Tarantino, but I’m not sure if I want to!

Written By: Quentin Tarantino & Uma Thurman
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

I keep going back to Quentin Tarantino, and I will again in a few weeks, in the hope that he will eventually click with me. With Kill Bill: Vol. 1 I thought based on the DVD title screen that maybe I had finally found that film, but alas it was not to be. All of the things I don’t like about Tarantino the filmmaker were present again with nothing new for me to like outside of some of the usual Tarantino flourishes that I already liked.

First let’s delve into what I did like, because Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was full of plenty to like and is the Tarantino directorial effort I have come the closest to labeling a good picture. The absurd nature of the opening fight setting worked for me, two women killing each other Asian martial arts style in a suburban setting was appealing. The use of color throughout the film was very pleasing to the eye. In the colored scenes the aesthetics of the film were vibrant and a pleasure to take in.

I did find myself completely taken by the music found in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. This is one area where I have never shortchanged Tarantino, he remains a genius when it comes to creating a mood with his music and always finding unique selections for his films. The fight sequence that I enjoyed the most was the final showdown between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu. Not only was it easily the best sequence action and fight wise, but the look of that scene was breathtaking. Brilliant cinematography and framing, the snow falling, it really was a great scene to take in.

In every Tarantino film I end up disliking his dialogue, and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is no exception. There are movies when I don’t mind obviously fake and too intelligent dialogue, but with Tarantino it always seems too forced and the kitchen conversation between Thurman and Vivica Fox is a great example of this. There’s also far too much exposition in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, giant chunks of it that felt like they went on forever. Tarantino’s habit of using a fractured narrative is a bit of old hat, especially in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when it doesn’t add to the story in any way. I know that the violence and geysers of blood is a style choice, but after a while it does get old and I just don’t care.

The middle of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is hard to take in. I have never liked the animation studio behind the anime sequence and as usual their animation looked shoddy to me. But, more importantly once we get to Japan the movie slows to a crawl. It inches by with each second seeming like an eternity, I was actually liking the action and the violence, but that Japan sequence killed whatever momentum the film had going for it.

When all is said and done the biggest flaw to be found in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is that it’s not a self contained story. It ends with a cliffhanger and while I understand Kill Bill was originally meant as a whole not to be seen in two volumes, it wasn’t released as such. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is its own movie and it should be able to stand on its own, but it can’t. The first part of the movie sets Bill up as The Bride’s nemesis, but the movie climaxes with the Lucy Liu battle and so much time is spent with her character that the idea of Bill as thee nemesis doesn’t fly in this picture, although maybe it works in the second one. I wanted a movie to watch, not a film that only works as the set-up for more to come.

I don’t want to sound too harsh in my criticism of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, because while I wouldn’t label it a good picture, it was a lot of fun. If the film had been tightened up in a few places it would have been more than just fun, it actually would have been good. It’s funny that I am a fan of the type of film Tarantino is trying to make with Kill Bill: Vol. 1, but the finished product leaves me less than satisfied, particularly the fact that it isn’t finished. Any Tarantino fan will love this, as will any fan of old hack em up kung fu/samurai films. I can’t recommend Kill Bill: Vol. 1, but I can say it is the closest Tarantino has come to directing a film I actually liked, and it was fun in parts.




7 responses to “Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

  1. The action in this film is great. I like every moment when someone is losing blood. The dialogue sequences aren’t as strong and I don’t feel that they necessarily get any better in Volume 2.

    Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, in my opinion, are his 3 best films where action, dialogue and story (as crazy as they are) all come together in the best possible Tarantino way. Since then he’s always been hit and miss in his dialogue scenes.

    Regarding the incomplete nature of the film, that was, I believe, more a result of the nature of the beast. Togethor I think the entire film ‘Kill Bill’ is over 3 hours long. Whether it was the studio or Tarantino himself (or both), it was decided to split the two up. It’s going to feel incomplete because of that, it comes with the territory. You don’t have to like that, but I wouldn’t complain too much about that. Besides, if you rent, purchase or download both, it’s basically like having a movie split onto two discs.

  2. Edgar – You and I are just going to have to disagree on this one. Having now seen Lady Snowblood, and some other sources of inspiration, it is even clearer to me that this is an inferior film in every way.

    Elvis – That Mir/Mirko Filipovic fight was a joke! Good thing Mir got a K.O. to save the fight.

  3. Well, CC has been a shell of his former self for a few years now…

  4. Watch Lady Snowblood and you can pretty much dismiss this mess of a film from Tarantino

  5. What is this Lady Snowblood you speak of?

  6. Pingback: Comica Obscura Marathon: Rebuttal: Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru (Lone Wolf And Cub: Sword Of Vengeance, 1972) | Bill's Movie Emporium

  7. Pingback: Comica Obscura Marathon: Review: Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood, 1973) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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