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    Kill Bill Vol. 1


    Quentin Tarantino starts by showing what makes him a master of the film medium, but soon lapses into empty spurting of movie blood and recycling of cultural cliches in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1."


    Quentin Tarantino makes terrible movies really, really well.

    Directed by: Quentin Tarantino.
    Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman.
    Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Michael Parks, Sonny Chiba, Chiaki Kuriyama, Julie Dreyfus.

    Related links: Official site

      Review: Kill Bill, Vol. 2
    With less excitement and more chitchat, "Vol. 2" shows that Quentin Tarantino should have taken a samurai sword to his multipart misadventure in the editing room if not blown it away completely.

    Exhibit 4: "Kill Bill: Vol. 1." Cleverly constructed, imaginatively filmed and undeniably intense in its most suspenseful moments, it's also a shallow concept with bad dialogue intended primarily to show what a supercool guy Tarantino is. And I'm not sure he is all that.

    The basic story, told intriguingly out of order, is this: Uma Thurman (aka "Black Mamba") has been wronged by her former partners in crime, who sabotaged her Texas wedding by means of a hail of bullets. Waking up from a four-year coma, she sets out to take revenge on them one by one, starting with Vivica A. Fox (aka "Copperhead") and Lucy Liu (aka "Cottonmouth"). Meanwhile, Daryl Hannah (aka "California Mountain Snake"), "Reservoir Dogs" bad guy Michael Madsen (aka "Sidewinder") and "Kung Fu" star David Carradine ("Bill") await their turns in the forthcoming "Vol. 2."

    Tarantino could be today's Hitchcock or the Busby Berkeley of blood, and he seems to be choosing the latter.  

    The best scene in the movie has a pallid Thurman regaining consciousness in a hospital ward for long-term coma victims and needing to effect a desperate escape against ruthless antagonists while not even able to stand on her atrophied legs. It's a gruesome scene but it grabs you and doesn't let go. Here, Tarantino is full of surprises — visual, auditory, temporal, personal. At his best, he's a master of the possibilities of film.

    Everything that follows is really a cut below this scene. The hospital battle is human-sized and stunningly real; what comes later is as choreographed as the Rockettes' kick line. The hospital scene is, if anything, more brutal than the later fights, and it leaves us wincing more than laughing. By contrast, the big swashbuckling spectacles that follow are like musical-comedy production numbers, only with rivers of red. Tarantino has a chance to be today's Hitchcock or he could be the Busby Berkeley of blood, and he seems to be choosing the latter.

    The climax of the movie comes as Thurman closes in on Lucy Liu's evil Yakuza-boss character. (Liu inspires some of the worst writing in the movie, much of it intended to excuse the Chinese-American actress from having to speak fake Japanese.) She is protected by a cortege of sword fodder in formal wear, scores of nattily dressed henchmen whose only purpose is to have their limbs lopped off with a samurai sword. The endlessly repeated motif of blood spraying from severed stumps like a fire hydrant is a fun new fascination for Tarantino. Yet, after the 20th one it's no longer so amusing to us.

      Kill Bill Vol. 1
    There are two central problems with the Tarantino oeuvre. Problem one: He celebrates violence as a form of fun. He didn't start it — Clint Eastwood was having his day made when Tarantino was starting grade school — but he has adopted it as an ethic and brought film into the conscienceless, joystick-driven, blood-spurting video-game era. The characters are defined by their sense of cool, their look, their style, and the killing and mutilating that they commit is part of what makes them hip.

    That brings up problem two: His movies are primarily about Tarantino admiring himself. We're supposed to aspire to Tarantino-chic. We're supposed to admire his exoticism as he rips off Asian cinema from Bruce Lee to Takashi Miike. We're supposed to exalt his connoisseurship as he scavenges the cultural junkyard of the '70s. This is an aesthetic for the modern age — a time in which music is made by computers out of samples of classic songs; in which war is carried out by button-pushers miles from the dying; in which counterculture is a look you buy at the Gap. Meaning is a relic of other times that we copy and repackage — and Tarantino is its king. He celebrates our falseness, the redundancy of creativity.

    DECEMBER 31, 2003

    Reader comments on Kill Bill Vol. 1:

  • The Redundancy of Creativity   from Sylvie Bosher, Jan 9, 2004
  • Q.T.   from Jibber, Mar 16, 2004
  • Re: Q.T.   from nippon - tony, May 27, 2004
  • Re: Q.T.   from Clay, Jun 21, 2004
  • Re: Q.T.   from black mamba, Aug 20, 2004
  • Re: Q.T.   from bob, Apr 6, 2007
  • Kill Bill Volume 1   from Bill, Jan 4, 2005
  • Re: joshua tanzer   from Frankie, Feb 25, 2005

  • Post a comment on "Kill Bill Vol. 1"