Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is an extraordinary film, the kind that makes you remember what going to a film should be like. In the days of bad remakes of seventies TV shows, dodgy sequels (Underworld has two in planning ffs!) and poorly conceived original film-making, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 stands alone.
I was unprepared for my experience when watching this wonderful film. Having not loved Tarantino’s previous films (Reservoir Dogs was pretty good, but Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown? Not my cup of tea), I was not expecting to enjoy this so much. After being practically dragged to the cinema by Stuart, I watched this amazing tale unfold with a mixture of surprise, awe and respect. Tarantino crafted a near-masterpiece with this film, and I was left stunned.
The plot is the basic revenge story that has been told a hundred times before, but Tarantino’s trick is to make it seem fresh and interesting again. With references to many of his own favourites amongst Japanese martial arts films, as well as multiple Western movies, this is an homage to all the things he loves about film. Tarantino’s own story is well known, but he must have made very good use of his days working in the video shop! For IMDb’s list of films referenced in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, go here.
Uma Thurman is spectacular as ‘The Bride’, redefining the female action heroine in a way that only Sigourney Weaver had done before. Fallible, yet supremely gifted, ‘The Bride’ is just a superb character. The resolution of her journey in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is much anticipated. The supporting cast is excellent, with Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox and Daryl Hannah all making the most of their time on screen.
The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, and comes close to my favourite all-time. (An honour reserved for Magnolia at this stage, with Return of the King a close second.) From Nancy Sinatra singing ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’, to The 5. 6. 7. 8’s with ‘Woo Hoo’, and the excellent work done by RZA, this soundtrack compliments the film remarkably well. The 10 minute 30 second remix of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ by Santa Esmeralda is awesome. My favourite is ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity’ by Tomoyasu Hotei, however all the tracks selected, no matter how eclectic, always add to the story and the scene. There is not one wrong note in this selection.
Much has been made of the decision to change the colour of the Crazy 88 battle scene to Black and White, as it was felt to be too gory for Western audiences to take. I’m not sure that the colour makes a difference, with much of the action in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 extraordinarily bloody. However, at no stage was I put off. In fact, the spurting blood and appendage removals are entertaining and not at all gratuitous. Maybe I’ve played too many violent video games?
The penultimate scene, the battle with O-Ren Ishii, is fantastic to watch. The lovely scenery, with the snow falling, and the water feature slowly filling and then emptying its load – and the soundtrack to match – it’s just beautiful. The contrast between the setting and the swordplay is stark. I could watch this scene again and again.
There is much to love about this film, and not much that misses its target. The depth of character given to O-Ren Ishii is enhanced by the beautiful use of an Anime backstory. The multiple cuts and redirections focus the energy, rather than confuse or mislead. The lighting, cinematography, editing and soundtrack are an example to film-makers everywhere, and should be taught in film school. This is a wonderful film.Rating: