Kill Bill Review


I’m choosing to write about both volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s epic samurai revenge saga “Kill Bill” in one article because they are so inextricably linked. More so than even “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, these two films feel as if they should be one. For the longest time, I refused to by the films on DVD, waiting for a re-edited single disc version. Alas, I caved, but I’m glad I did, for the world has yet to see the long-rumored “The Whole Bloody Affair.”

The story of “Kill Bill” is one of greed. Are these two separate films? I don’t think so—not even close. But the dangers presented in releasing a talky, violent, 3-plus hour film were too great to leave the film in its original state. So “Kill Bill” became “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill Vol. 2.” But for all the complaining I’ve done about splitting the film in two, each of these is tremendous and for very different reasons. “Vol. 1” is a technical masterpiece. It might be the most spectacularly put together piece of cinema since “The Godfather.” It’s lacking slightly on the emotional side of things, but it’s still a phenomenal film. “Vol. 2” makes up for “Vol. 1” on the emotional side of things and then some. There are a lot of words spoken, a whole lot of words, but we grow attached to these characters (even the villains) in deep and complicated ways. The complement each other perfectly in that way, making the whole film much greater than the sum of its parts.

Nine people were murdered one quiet day in El Paso, Texas. The papers called it the Massacre at Two Pines. But ten people were supposed to die that day. One woman, The Bride (Uma Thurman), survived a bullet to the head, but lost four years of her life, everyone she loved, and her unborn child.

After she awakes from her coma, she only has revenge on her mind. The Bride goes out in search of the five people, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, who were there that day in El Paso. O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is the head of the Tokyo underground. Vernita Green (Vivica Fox) has run away from her past and settled into the role of soccer mom. Budd (Michael Madsen) has become a bouncer in a strip club and believes The Bride deserves her revenge. Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) is as dangerous and determined as she was four years ago. And then there’s Bill (David Carradine). He’s the leader of the group, one of the most dangerous people in the world, and The Bride’s former lover.

The plot trajectory is simple, but it’s told in a fascinatingly complex manner. The Bride simply targets one adversary after another, but we see things out of order. We don’t get the entire story of what happened in El Paso until the beginning of “Vol. 2.” Instead, we are treated to some traditional Tarantino pulp—lots of crackling dialogue, bloody violence, and brilliant cinematography and music.

The second film ups our attachment to the characters and the story, but it’s not without flaws. The film feels longer than it is, as Tarantino begins to get a little indulgent with some of the scenes (I still don’t understand the importance of the Esteban Vihaio sequence). And the final battle is far too short. But the film surprises you by where it goes and how involved you become.

Uma Thurman will never equal her work in “Pulp Fiction,” but her work here is still exemplary. In “Vol. 1” she is the poster child for revenge and rage. In “Vol. 2,” we see she really is a killer at heart and despite her best attempts to escape it, it will always be a part of her. Her work is equaled by that of David Carradine, whose Bill is one of Tarantino’s best characters—a seemingly heartless thug who we discover actually acts with his heart. In terms of the supporting cast, the best of the bunch is Michael Madsen. Budd, like Bill, surprises us on more than one occasion. He seems pathetic, but maybe he has it all figured out better than anybody.

I’ve said before that Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and probably my favorite working today. “Kill Bill” is one of his very best films. It’s more than just a simple revenge flick. It’s an impeccably made, emotionally satisfying story of a woman who lost everything and just wants to make someone pay. Very different in subject matter than his past work, but very similar in tone and style, “Kill Bill” showed that Tarantino wasn’t just a one- or two-hit wonder. He’ll be around for a long, long time doing what he does best—making great films.

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