View Full Version : The Moose Hole - Review of Kill Bill (Volume I)

10-11-2003, 12:01 PM
Released October 10th, 2003

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, LaTanya Richardson, Michael Jai White, Woo-ping Yuen, Samuel L. Jackson (cameo)

Premise: The first film in the two-part "Kill Bill" series, the second being Kill Bill (Volume II). Uma Thurman is going to "Kill Bill," in Quentin Tarantino's latest film about a former assassin betrayed by her boss, Bill (Carradine). Four years after surviving a bullet in the head, the bride (Thurman) emerges from a coma and swears revenge on her former master and his deadly squad of international assassins, played by Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Madsen.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film and the first one since 1997’s Jackie Brown takes the theme of revenge like Hamlet on steroids. It has not been an easy road for this generation’s “It” director. Tarantino once worked at a video rental store before writing the script for Reservoir Dogs that he later directed. It was his directorial effort in 1994’s Pulp Fiction that catapulted Tarantino, as well as the independent film company Miramax, into the Hollywood mainstream. Unfortunately his next film, Jackie Brown, which, by the way, was not written by him, was not widely accepted and then Quentin Tarantino dropped off the scene for nearly six years ....

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10-14-2003, 10:17 PM
While the massive gore and violence in this movie is supposed to be mediated by its obvious spoof of other Japanese samurai movies, it was just too much, too unncessary overkill. When one of the audience members started laughing at the grotesque and gruesome slaughter, I felt shivers about whole insensitive our society may be becoming towards all this violence. At the same time, the ability of Uma Thurman to continue to survive from these skilled assassins by luck instead of ability really detracted from the entertainment value of this movie. The last fighting scene was a letdown of huge proportions for the build up to something of an anticlimatic sword combat scene that lacked the real skill and talent ability that all the prior footage was leading up to this climax. Overall, I enjoyed this movie but it seems overrated just because of who directed it and the expectation that it needs to be good.

Mark Dujsik
10-16-2003, 12:27 PM
Originally posted by tabuno
While the massive gore and violence in this movie is supposed to be mediated by its obvious spoof of other Japanese samurai movies, it was just too much, too unncessary overkill. When one of the audience members started laughing at the grotesque and gruesome slaughter, I felt shivers about whole insensitive our society may be becoming towards all this violence.

That may be, but it was meant to be and is funny. You might as well say that the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the turning point of cultural apathy toward violence. The violence in Kill Bill is that level of absurdity. If there was any attempt to portray any of the film's violence realistically, I would say the critics of the film have a legitimate case. But Tarantino shouldn't be criticized for the reductio ad absurdum violence in his film; actual, real world violence is exploited by our sensationalistic news media on a daily basis. In this context, any energy spent on chastising the clearly ridiculous and ridiculously clear choice Tarantino has made is utterly wasted.

Ebert said in his review of the film: "If you think I have given away plot details, you think there can be doubt about whether the heroine survives the first half of a two-part action movie, and should seek help." I would say the same applies to those who think the violence in the movie has any basis in reality.

10-17-2003, 02:12 AM
Somehow in watching this orgy of violent, graphic images, I went into this movie hearing how "funny" this movie was supposed to be. Yet as I watched the slaughter and the emphasis on body parts and blood gushing, I couldn't really see the humor and the overt attempt to really diminish this massive hemorrhage of death through a brilliant directorial effort - apparently the director wasn't up to it for my taste. "Brazil" might be the better example of light-fantasy-bizarre semi-serious drama. The cute Japanese girl in school uniform, Uma Thurman's eaggerated expressions were efforts at lightening up an otherwise bloodfest, but the actual martial arts fighting did not consistently portray the same attitude of cuteness - it bordered more on the horror tradition. I almost am interested in seeing "Scary Movie 3" than another helping of Kill Bill, just for the obvious parody. I am hopeful that Kill Bill Vol. 2 will lighten up as the trailer with the older martial artist sword playing with Uma Thurman suggests.

Mark Dujsik
10-17-2003, 02:58 AM
Originally posted by tabuno
Yet as I watched the slaughter and the emphasis on body parts and blood gushing, I couldn't really see the humor and the overt attempt to really diminish this massive hemorrhage of death through a brilliant directorial effort - apparently the director wasn't up to it for my taste.

Then are you of the perspective that the style of violence was realistic? If so, then that's where our difference of opinion lies, and unless I can convince you that the fruit-punch colored blood and its excessive fountain-like outpouring from the wounded was nonrealistic or you can convince me that it represented reality, common ground between our opinions on the issue will be impossible to find.

10-18-2003, 12:27 PM
Tarantino intentionally made the blood unrealistic for reason. It says something about us and our film culture in general. Let's say you cut a guy's arm on screen and he slowly bleeds to death like in a WWII film or something to that nature. We feel sickened, right? Let's say you do the same thing but the blood gushes out like a fountain and he's running around like a chicken with its head cut off. We aren't as bothered by it, right? But its the same thing isn't it? That's my theory on what he wanted to get at.

10-19-2003, 08:53 PM
Mark Dujsik -

There is Lucy Lui's female assistant whose arm is cut off and somehow mirculously survives and is used for comic humor when she isn't allowed to leave the restaurant which supports your premise. Unfortunately, I'm not around a lot of mangled and torn bodies enough to know real from parody.

Chris Knipp
11-02-2003, 01:18 AM
What is required is not hanging around with dismembered bodies, but hanging around with martial arts movies and spaghetti westerns. A lot of movies are about movies, Tarantino's more than most. No point going out on the street to find out what's going on here. If you prefer Scary Movie 3 to Kill Bill 1 you may need professional help.

On the contrary Kill Bill is one movie lately that has not been overrated. It's gotten a fair assessment. Nobody has praised it excessively and nobody has totally trashed it for no good reason.

Mark Dujsik
11-02-2003, 02:51 AM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
If you prefer Scary Movie 3 to Kill Bill 1 you may need professional help.

On a side note, I just caught Scary Movie 3 tonight (in a vain attempt to catch up with recent movies) and will admit that I had a few nice belly laughs because of it.

Otherwise, though, I do agree with you. :)

11-02-2003, 11:54 AM
I have seen professional counselors in my life!

I have seen Scary Movie 3. While funny in places, strangely enough its overall tendency reflects that same increase in suggestive graphic violence at Kill Bill which to me says something about our society and that perhaps we're running out of creative and innovative ideas. I prefer the blending of comedy and drama as you find in Angel, Buffy, and Charmed. Comedy is perhaps one of the most difficult art forms and to successfully blend it with drama is brilliance.

I did enjoy Kill Bill (Vol. 1) more than Scary Movie and it did have a more deliberate, carefully cheoreographed production. Admittedly I am not an avid martial art film fan (I think Matrix is too over the top to be credible). I would hope that Kill Bill wouldn't require an black belt in martial arts to appreciate its more finer points.

Chris Knipp
11-02-2003, 12:20 PM
I was just kidding about seeking professional help. I wasn't saying you need a black belt or any experience of martial arts but of martial arts movies. While you're diagnosing, you may want to diagnose the whole world, especially the Far East, since most of the violent martial arts movies Tarantino is referencing in Kill Bill come from there.

11-07-2003, 01:47 AM
I think the violence in first half of "Kill Bill" was quite realistic (Uma Thurman's savagely beaten face as the opening image, her slamming a door repeatedly against a man's skull) and, aside from her battle with Vivica A. Fox, there's little to suggest the extreme stylization of the second half, where it becomes little more than an hommage to martial arts films. (That's meant as a compliment.)

I took that first half violence (which I saw as American film violence from the Seventies, a la Peckinpah and Leone) very seriously. When my wife and I started laughing as three yakuza fell to the ground dead simultaneously in the second half, it was quite possibly out of relief that the first half was over, kinda like the feeling you get after the first major drop on a roller coaster--you realize you've survived.

Chris Knipp
12-03-2003, 01:54 AM
The key to the treasure is the treasure

Forget plot; forget motivation, or what Kill Bill might be about. The fun and excitement result from the way the film takes us deep into movies and into the mind of Tarantino himself. It is his own writing again. There are references galore, to the Shaw Brothers, for example, and Bruce Lee, to Sergio Leone - but also quite notably to his own work, especially Pulp Fiction.

Kill Bill's star is Uma Thurman, who was the most delightful, fun person in Pulp Fiction. As Mia Wallace, the wife of scary crime boss Marsellus Wallace and John Travolta's dangerous dream date, Uma was the most coolly reckless female powerhouse in the Tarantino oeuvre. Tarantino knows how actors carry the parts they've played into other movies, and Uma brings the aura of Mia Wallace into Kill Bill. When Black Mamba is teased by a mosquito into awakening from her four-year coma to begin the chain of revenge Kill Bill chronicles, she gasps and pops up just the way Mia did when she got the hypodermic needle of adrenaline to the heart: it's a direct audio-visual echo.

Kill Bill pays homage to a different kind of pulp and lacks Pulp Fiction's amusing and outrageous dialogue. But similar thought processes are at work in the way Kill Bill is put together. Kill Bill's opening two-woman battle is a prologue that sets things up just as the diner holdup scene with Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth) sets up the action of Pulp Fiction.

The battle between Uma and her first enemy leads into the wedding murder scene - the place where Kill Bill actually begins - with its stylized Wild West imagery and Sergio Leone overtones. From then on Tarantino thinks in blocks of near-autonomous set pieces much like the main segments of Pulp Fiction. There's the hospital sequence where Uma comes to and takes charge of the "Pussy Wagon" she was using in the Prologue. Then the samurai Sword Sequence featuring Sonny Chiba and set in Okinawa, where Black Mamba gets her magic, invincible weapon. Then the Tokyo Sequence, which is in four parts, each a different shooting sequence:- the anime of the young O-ren Ishii/Cottonmouth being turned into a killer by having to fight off a pedophile grandparent; the adult O-ren beheading one of her Yakuza gang members for insubordination; Uma/Black Mamba's battle royal with O-ren's posse in the restaurant/nightclub; and finally her showdown with O-ren herself in the exterior snowy garden, where Vol. 1 comes to what may seem a surprisingly peaceful and beautiful end.

It's not only the higgledy-piggledy time scheme and the use of big autonomous segments that link Kill Bill: Vol. 1 with Pulp Fiction: there are more specific echoes.

I've already mentioned the "awakening" of Uma. In fact, the showdown in medias res (in the middle of the story) between Uma and Vernita Green/Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox) which serves as prologue has a family resemblance to the Kahuna Burger sequence with Travolta and Jackson: the exploded head in the car and The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) calmly supervising the tidying up of the bloody vehicle at the house in Toluca Lake. What the two sequences have in common is ultra-violence in a bland, suburban setting as professional killers take revenge, with interruptions for brief spurts of terse dialogue. We have the same affectless children too. The deadpan reaction of Copperhead's little daughter to her mom's extinction, reminds one of the small boy in Pulp Fiction: expressionless, as he learns of his grandfather's watch in a preposterous speech from Chris Walken. Kids in Tarantino-land are innocent victims and passive onlookers.

It's the hospital sequence that rhymes most clearly with Pulp Fiction. The way Uma's character brutally punishes the crude orderly who's been renting out her inert body and then escapes to the "Pussy Wagon" to rid her nether limbs of "entropy" by sheer power of thought, reminds us of Butch in the prizefight Zen/Maynard pawnshop sequence: retrieving his watch, escaping his tormentors, freeing Marcellus Wallace to revenge his sexual assault, and then returning to Fabienne on the commandeered "chopper" -- his "Pussy Wagon."

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is more stylized and pays more ritualized homage than Tarantino has ever done before. Commendably, the greater artistic freedom and higher budget has led him to restrict himself more. However, his treatment of race and gender continues to be provocative: the more so since the three opponents are women - Caucasian, Asian, and black. In the multiple languages, the translating, and the interracial battling, Tarantino is wrestling with the foreignness of his source material, as well as with gender and racial roles.

Larissa MacFarquhar's recent New Yorker magazine article "The Movie Lover" (October 20, 2003) provides insights into Tarantino's mindset. She emphasizes the filmmaker's incestuous familiarity with pulp movies, the endless quantity he knows by heart. He's still the video store geek, raised to the nth degree. Favorite movie sequences replay in his photographic memory. His plots all mesh - somehow - but it's the furiously engaging set pieces that stand out. For that's how his mind is stocked. He thinks in these autonomous blocks.

It's important to realize Tarantino is an unadulterated movie lover. There's no irony in his homages. "The problem with the irony charge" against Tarantino, MacFarquhar says, "is that pop culture and life are not separable for Tarantino." Any homage to pulp is homage to movies and homage to life. That granted, Kill Bill is as life affirming as it is art-affirming. "What is Kill Bill about?" is an irrelevant question. The key to the treasure is the treasure. Statements to the effect that Kill Bill is "smart, but thin" (Hoberman), "brilliant" but containing "no story" (Ebert), or worse yet "decadent" and "crap" (Denby) miss the movie's affirmative aspects and make it seem cold when it's bubbling with enthusiasm and joie de vivre. It's a celebration.

12-06-2003, 02:16 PM
That's the best piece of writing I've read of yours, Chris.

You know exactly what Tarantino was up to with Kill Bill. Denby needs some "head space and timing". "Crap"? Fuck off David.

Indeed QT references his own films. The one I liked the most was when the convoy/entourage plows through the tunnel (with Uma on a superbike) and you see the advert for Red Apple cigarettes.

There's no looking back for the tarantula.

I came into Kill Bill thinking it'll be bombastic. It was more than that. It was an honor. Tarantino is carrying a flag of some type; a torch- he feels it necessary to draw attention to the truly exciting aspects of cinema: image, music, intent of vision, overall impact.

He doesn't want to "tell a story". He doesn't want to "make a good film". He wants to wield Excalibur and threaten the boring establishment with it. How many films released this year are shit?
Quite a few if you ask me. I think there are less than 50 notable films this year, and Kill Bill is in the elite eschelon. Everytime I mention it to people, they take this gross posture and say "It was cheesy" or "I thought it sucked". I even had one guy tell me "Tarantino's lost it". I was shocked. Oblivious fucks.

I don't want to sound like I'm over-hyping Kill Bill, but sweet Jesus, this "backlash" or "indifference" to the movie is completely unjustified.

Just smile at all the losers who don't know what they're missing, Quentin. You've made your Citizen Kane.

Chris Knipp
12-06-2003, 08:11 PM
I am honored to have earned your approval. It pleases me to find out how many film buffs of all stripes go back to see Kill Bill again and appreciate its craft.

12-07-2003, 01:18 AM
When you make comments the way you do with Kill Bill Vol. 1, no wonder people become silent and awestruck. Your perspective of the movie makes it sound worthwhile to a number of follow-up viewings just to soak in what you said.

12-07-2003, 01:06 PM
I feel like this movie was little more than an overly exaggerated love letter from Quentin to Uma. I have watched each of his films with anticipation, thinking each one would build on the genius of the other to eventually show the clever overview of his talent. With this film, however, I feel like it's more than 'he's gone astray' I feel like his less-than-loveable public persona copuled with this monstrostity of a film has shown me that yet again, I was fooled by the promise and let down with the test of time. Not only will I not rush out to see Volume II, I doubt his name will ever incite me to get up and go to the theater again.

12-07-2003, 04:31 PM
If you take the time to actually find out what Tarantino's motivations are (and I mean really find out- so many idiots take him for granted) you will realize that the man is arguably the most important filmmaker around.

Take his interview in Rolling Stone. He is asked who he thinks has a lasting impact in cinema. His response? Stanley Kubrick.
"I'm not even the hugest Kubrick fan, but his work never gets old" was the quote, I believe. That's enough for me to love the man. He is constantly emphasizing the importance of film greatness. He knows his place. He also said this:

I wanted to make a better film than Pulp Fiction.

Do I have to spoon-feed people who don't get it? Shit!

Kill Bill is pure cinema.
Until you realize that, you have no business saying anything negative about the film.

I don't take anyone seriously who doesn't make an effort to understand. Blanket statements like "I feel like it's more than 'he's gone astray'" are not even worth responding to.
Astray from what, gothabillygirl? Himself?
QT is self-righteous (like me), so that comment is absolutely hilarious.

I'm gonna have a shot of rotgut now...

oscar jubis
12-08-2003, 12:21 AM
I snuck in to watch the first half of Kill Bill.

I HAD FUN watching Mr. Fanboy regurgitate instant-gratification genres with verve and style.

A "monstrostity"? NO!
"life affirming"?..."homage to life"!? C'mon!

A second serving? No, but I want to see the rest and this time I'll be paying the price of admission.

Note: If the dismemberments and such made your toes tingle, I recommend rental of Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer. It's gorier and funnier, but created a bit of marital discord.

12-09-2003, 01:59 PM
Uma Thurman said to QT when he was at her house:
"You understand me".

I can see how Kill Bill could be a "love letter" to Uma, but the truth is they aren't an item, and Quentin cast her because he knows what she is capable of.

In Rolling Stone you see a photo of him in his living room, stocked with vhs tapes of movies, action figures, posters and all sorts of other eclectic items. He's unsheathing a samurai sword, and grinning like the cinematic devil he is. That picture is worth a lot. It tells you volumes about the guy.

True Romance: references to Sonny Chiba and other films abound
Reservoir Dogs: references to Godard and other films abound
Pulp Fiction: references to other films reach an event horizon
Jackie Brown: references to other films take on mythic proportions
Kill Bill: the references are now a new film, and it is beyond debate that Tarantino can be ignored. What will his next film be?
Who cares? He's given film fans enough for a lifetime.


Don't you understand me, now?

I'm just a soul
Whose intentions are good
Oh Lord
don't let me be misunderstood