Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Reviewed By Josh Gryniewicz
Posted 04/15/04 10:41:53

"Tarantino's Kill Bill, Volume 1 reinvents action cinema"
5 stars (Awesome)

In a yellow tracksuit borrowed from Bruce Lee's “Game of Death” (1978), with a sword specially crafted for vengeance by another incarnation of the legendary multigenerational Samurai "Shadow Warrior" Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba), a woman known only as The Bride (Uma Thurman) reaps a rather brutal revenge on her former associates. It is with this concept that Quentin Tarantino's “Kill Bill” (2003) does for action cinema what his “Pulp Fiction” (1994) did for noir -- reinvent it!

Kill Bill, Volume 1 is a straight revenge action flick cobbled together of retro cult images and an exaggerated homage to everything from blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns to Hong Kong action and Japanese yakuza gangster films -- all with trademark Tarantino dialogue and temporally challenged storytelling.

On her wedding day, The Bride is left for dead by the DiVAS (Deadly Viper Assassin Squad), an elite team of professional killers led by Bill (David Carradine). She awakes from a coma four years later in a hospital being pimped out by a sleazy orderly and launches a slaughter-style killing spree, exacting her revenge one target at a time.

”Kill Bill” is not about plot – it’s about execution. We see The Bride's kills out of sequential order, getting insightful flashbacks on each character before the action explodes on-screen. First we’re shown a brilliantly choreographed, wickedly comedic, hyperactive kung fu knife fight with second kill Vernita Green (Vivica Fox). They pause the action for Vernita's daughter to head upstairs, they debate The Bride's nickname, Black Mamba, in “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) style, they speak in that awkwardly diplomatic, surreally polite Samurai way, and they kick the shit out of each other.

Then we head to Okinawa, where we’re treated to a pop-cultural Samurai Sunday rendition of ceremony and culture, compliments of Sonny Chiba reprising his role of Hattori Hanzo from the Japanese television show, “Kage No Gundan”. In the classic cult show, Chiba played generation after generation of classic Samurais, each named Hattori Hanzo. Chiba, who is described by Tarantino's mythologized self, Clarence Worley, in “True Romance” (1993) as "the finest actor working in martial arts today," teams up with Woo-ping Yuen of “Matrix” (1993) fame to conduct the superb fight choreography.

In Japan, we get the story of Chinese-American-Japanese yakuza boss and former DiVAS' member O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) in Anime cartoon flashback leading up to an explosive sword swinging, limbs flying, decapitation-spurting show down in the House of Blue Leaves.

Tarantino is as much a hardcore fan as he is a filmmaker -- and with Bill he’s building a monument to the B-grade trash that educated him. He’s created an action-packed world of junk culture with its own slick look and strange laws. As with Robert Rodrieguez's “Once Upon A Time in Mexico” (2003)-- which, according to the annals of film lore, was created in part because of Tarantino's constant encouragement -- he’s doing more than creating a hyper-slick, super accelerated action world. He’s making himself legendary in our own.

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