Review By Liam O Brien, 5 out of 5 With the release of KILL BILL VOL. II a few months back, opinion of this first half has changed several times over to bring into line what people thought of its second, more plot lead, half. To begin with, VOL. I was hailed as a marvellous return of ‘the Tarantino picture’ after over half a decade without a new movie. But when part two appeared, people began to complain about ‘lack of structure’ and generally bitch about a film that, six months before, they loved. Well balls to the lot of them, because KILL BILL, taken as two sittings or one, kicks as much ass as any other movie released this side of THE MATRIX. Tarantino has produced a sweeping epic of revenge, stuffed full of ideas, neat tricks and great performances. The same assured hand that guided PULP FICTION to cinematic paydirt via its topsy-turvey chronology pulls the same trick off here, opening with the Bride (Uma Thurman) having her brains blown all over the floor of a El Paso wedding chapel before confronting the second person on her hitlist of five. It’s a excitingly low key opening- Thurman charging into a suburban home facing off against Vernita Green (Viveca A Fox) using knives, fists, feet and furniture. That this is blood pumping stuff is great alone, that this is QT’s first real foray into action cinema is nothing short of amazing. From this the film speeds on headfirst through the Brides escape from hospital, an origin story played out in anime, a rite of passage come samurai homage sequence to a blood spattered showdown in a Tokyo night club (that takes up a third of the movie) shown in a mixture of film stocks. Split into five chapters, its riveting stuff and the fact there is little ‘Tarantino dialogue’ doesn’t make any difference.
Uma Thurman as the mysterious, vengeful Bride is a tour de force of casting. She is able to pack so much into such an ambiguous character (we don’t even find out her name until part II) its all quite incredible. She gives us the Bride as a figure who can be tragic, cool, sexy, deadly, hard bitten and soft and (seemingly) innocent, and most importantly, in a role that could have had no redeeming features, likeable. The others around her are great support, Viveca Fox and Lucy Lui nail their parts, giving the right balance of character and physicality to Green and mob queen O-Ren Ishii. As for the plot, most of that does admittedly kick in come VOLUME II, but when the first half of the story clips along at a pace like this, you neither notice nor care. Re watching VOL. I you notice Tarantino’s great little tricks and nuances he pulls off with both script and film. From the masterfully judged sparring between Thurman and Fox to the breathtaking tracking shot across the house of Blue Leaves, this is the work of a man at the top of his game. The soundtrack, another hallmark of this most eclectic of auteurs, is an aural treat, enhancing the on-screen action, perfectly balancing the light with the dark. The use of the classic GREEN HORNET theme tune is undoubtedly one of the standouts, but there are other very cool moments elsewhere.
KILL BILL VOLUME ONE, no matter what the critics say, is a blood spattered treat from start to finish. Come the cliff-hanger ending seemingly obligatory for these ‘one film cut in half’ projects ala THE MATRIX RELOADED/ REVOLUTIONS, you too will want to check out VOLUME TWO before it comes out of the multiplexes. Tarantino has pulled another great film out of the bag. A bag with a severed, gore covered samurai head in it that is.
THE EXTRAS: The transfer is flawless, as should be expected from a film only out in October of last year. The sound mix is used to great effect- the house of Blue Leaves battle gave the front and back speakers a nice going over while keeping the base to a minimum until the music kicks in. Not earth shattering- there isn’t much scope in the sound stakes, there doesn’t need to be, but it’s a dependable enough disc to show your new 5.1 system to your mates (PLUG). The amount of extras is woeful I am sad to say- a solid, if unremarkable documentary livened up by QT (obviously taken from an EPK) backed up by some cool trailers and a music video featuring the 5,6,7,8’s that works better in the film that it does on its own. It’s a pathetic collection of extras- either everything’s going on VOLUME II’s disc or we have to wait for another money grabbing ‘special edition.’ Great film, crap extras.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE