Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Uma Thurman as The Bride
David Carradine as Bill
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver
Michael Madsen as Budd
Vivica A Fox as Vernita Green
Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii
Michael Jai White as Alburt/Da Moe
Chia Hui Liu as Pai Mei/Crazy 88 fighter
Chiaki Kuriyama as Go Go Yubari
Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo

Special Features:
The Making of Kill Bill Vol. 1

Bonus Musical Performances by "The 5, 6, 7, 8's"

Quentin Tarantino's Movie Trailers including Kill Bill Vol. 2

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 111 Minutes

Synopsis:
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is the first part of a two volume story by Quentin Tarantino.

Uma Thurman plays 'The Bride', an assassin and part of the elite Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS). When she tries to leave the life of killing for hire and settle down, she is gunned down at her wedding in El Paso, Texas. The culprits are her former boss, Bill, and the other members of DiVAS. Four years after surviving a bullet in the head, The Bride emerges from a coma and swears revenge on her former master and his deadly squad of international assassins.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content.

The Movie:
Quentin Tarantino's fourth film is his love letter to the 70's Kung Fu movies that he cherishes so much. The music, sound effects, camerawork, dialogue, and stunts are all directly from those cheesy flicks from way back when. But Tarantino doesn't stop at just borrowing from the Kung Fu genre. He also borrows from Samurai flicks, exploitation films, Yakuza movies, Westerns, and even anime. Because of that, Kill Bill ends up being a really weird movie. Your enjoyment of Kill Bill Vol. 1 will depend heavily on how much you appreciate a good homage to those films. Though I'm not a big fan of any of these kinds of movies, I still appreciated what Tarantino was doing and I enjoyed Kill Bill Vol. 1 quite a bit.

Kill Bill's greatest strength and its greatest weakness is the action and violence. The film is filled with cool fight scenes. The best fight of the movie features Uma Thurman battling the Crazy 88's, a gang of sword wielding Japanese thugs. The fight choreography is amazing and the swordfights are some of the best ever seen on film. There's also a spectacular knife fight in a kitchen between Vivica A Fox and Thurman. It is tough, bloody, and brutal. It's awesome stuff. However, as anyone familiar with Tarantino knows, the fight scenes are underlined with tons of blood, shocking moments, and brutality rarely matched in today's cinema. In fact, Tarantino takes it to the far end of the spectrum to the point that it becomes parody. When The Bride slices the arm off a bad guy, it literally gushes blood like a fire hose. There's so much blood that it becomes silly. (Believe it or not, this is what some of those old movies were like.) This violence may be a turn off to some people.

The film also changes in look at a rate faster than toddler on a sugar high. The movie goes from color to black and white, from live action to cartoon, and from crystal clear to grainy. It's a bizarre mix, but it works in the film. Also aiding this movie is the awesome soundtrack. It's an eclectic mix of tunes featuring everyone from Nancy Sinatra to a Japanese surf band to Wu Tang Clan's Rza. I particularly liked the music from the trailer (also heard in the club scene) which I believe if from Rza as well.

Kill Bill also has a wicked sense of humor. There are hilarious moments all through the film. For example, Fox's daughter walks in on the middle of her knife fight with Uma to the death. Trying to explain the destruction away, Fox blames it on the dog. Another scene later features Lucy Liu brutally decapitating a man, then giving a calm and polite lecture on airing disagreements within her criminal organization. It's this kind of one-two punch of horror and comedy that makes Kill Bill unique.

Uma Thurman is incredible as "The Bride". (Her name isn't revealed until Kill Bill Vol. 2. It's beeped out till then.) She's tough, intelligent, and someone you wouldn't want to cross. Like Sigourney Weaver creating a landmark character with Ripley, so does Uma with The Bride. Her stunts and swordwork and very impressive as well. She really makes you believe she could do many of the stunts she performs. Vivica A. Fox also comes out of nowhere as Vernita Green and does impressive stuff. She switches from DiVA assassin to soccer mom with amazing ease. She, too, does some impressive fight work in her showstopping fight scene with Uma. Chiaki Kuriyama is also cool as Go Go Yubari. She's like the Darth Maul of Kill Bill she doesn't say much but she exudes cool.

One of the other major handicaps of Kill Bill Vol. 1 is its length. It is cut abruptly short with a cliffhanger ending that leads you into Kill Bill Vol. 2. From a business standpoint, it's a good move. People who enjoyed the first will be back to buy tickets for the second. From a storytelling standpoint, I think the film could have been trimmed down and all been fit into one movie. It would have been a lot more satisfying story, I think.

The Extras:
This DVD is surprisingly light on the extras. There's no commentary and only a brief "making of" video. I can only guess that some sort of deluxe version will come along after Kill Bill Vol. 2 is released. Here's what this disc has to offer:

The Making of Kill Bill Vol. 1 This is your standard "making of" video. It is around 20 minutes long and features interviews with the cast and crew. Tarantino tells how the movie came about and how he filmed it in China. He tells a funny story about how he discovered "The 5,6,7,8's" while in a clothing store in Japan. Uma tells how she developed the idea for the Bride with Tarantino. Fox is also interviewed and tells how she got her role. They also showed clips from the movies that inspired Tarantino. I found this particularly interesting because you could see just how similar Kill Bill is to them. It becomes quickly apparent that Tarantino nailed the genre dead on. Overall, it's a nice documentary.

Bonus Musical Performances by "The 5, 6, 7, 8's" This Japanese girl surf band from the movie plays a couple of songs on the club set. While they play their music well, they seem to have a problem carrying a tune and their English lyrics are so hard to understand that they are subtitled in English. While I liked them in the movie, I don't think this video is flattering for them (at least to American audiences).

The Bottom Line:
Overall, Kill Bill features some dark comedy, amazing bloody fights, good music, and interesting camerawork. However, the gore and violence often go over the top and the homage to 70's Kung Fu theater may come across as stupid rather than fun to some people. Your enjoyment in this movie will depend heavily on your tastes as a moviegoer.

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