Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Director:  Quentin Tarantino
Cast:  Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu, Sonny Chiba
Plot:  The Bride wakes up after a long coma.  The baby that she carried before entering the coma is gone.  The only thing on her mind is to have revenge on the assassination team that betrayed her - a team she was once part of.

Genre:  Action / Drama
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Leading Actress (Drama)
Runtime:  111min
Rating:  R21 for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content.

“That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die.”

When Quentin Tarantino went from working in a video store to working with folks like Harvey Keitel, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis, everyone knew he would become one of the most influential filmmakers of his time. 

He gave us Reservoir Dogs (1992), the masterpiece that is Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997) in the 1990s, but only really came of age as a sly, wunderkind filmmaker oozing incredible talent with the two 'Kill Bill' movies, which is essentially one long film split into two parts of quite distinct styles.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is not exactly Tarantino's finest hour, but it is certainly the most fun you will get watching an inspired filmmaker working on the action genre with as much Eastern sensibilities as some of the great Hong Kong and Japanese action maestros of the 1970s and 1980s. 

With references to the way of the samurai, flying kung fu action, and even a homage to the Japanese anime in an extended animated sequence, Tarantino weaves everything together with slight elements of the Western (which comes out more forcefully in Vol. 2) and a revenge story that could have easily gotten the Korean treatment.

Uma Thurman plays The Bride, who is left for dead, but wakes up from a coma after four years only to find that the baby in her tummy is gone.  She draws out a list of those who have done her, and begins her quest to kill them all. 

While Tarantino's films are known for its lengthy but entertaining dialogue, accompanied by spurts of bloody violence, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 develops a narrative around key action set-pieces, which come out in its full g(l)ory in the second half.  The Crazy 88 massacre sequence, with limbs and heads decapitated freely, and blood gushing out like plumbing gone wrong, is extreme but married to a brilliant soundtrack, it becomes a thing of beauty.

There are some pacing problems past the second chapter, with silences that go on far too long, and dialogue that sometimes struggles to sustain.  The part where The Bride visits a Japanese swordmaker feels that it needs to be tightened.  It may provide a counterpoint to the mayhem that is to come in the second half, but even watching it for the umpteenth time, you will be just itching for the action to arrive as quickly as possible.  But when it comes, you don't want it to end. 

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is unmistakably Tarantino-esque.  When the action is over, he pulls you back to the character and story, and makes you wanna pop in Vol. 2 right away.  Now that's what I call virtuoso filmmaking.

Verdict: Tarantino delivers a bloody entertaining ride amid some slight pacing problems – and a loving homage to the samurai film and Hong Kong kung fu cinema.


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