Tuesday 2 April 2013

Movie Review: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

The first part of Quentin Tarantino's epic tale of revenge is an astounding achievement. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a hyperkinetic journey through the craft of modern cinema, Tarantino infusing the film with rampant style to elevate the story of The Bride on a killing mission to beautifully bombastic art.

A deadly woman known only as The Bride (Uma Thurman) is seeking revenge on a band of assassins who used to be her former colleagues, all working for a man known as Bill (David Carradine, never fully seen). The pregnant Bride's wedding was crashed by Bill and the highly-trained killing team of O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen) and Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). After killing everyone else in the wedding party, Bill himself shot The Bride in the head and left her for dead.

But she survived, and after emerging from a four-year coma, she escapes from hospital after settling scores with an abusive attendant and embarks on her revenge. Her second revenge killing is chronicled first, and it is a brutal battle with Green in the heart of suburbia. Their fight to the death is interrupted when Green's young daughter Nikki returns from school, but only briefly. Then the focus shifts back in time to The Bride in Japan hunting O-Ren Ishii. A back-story recounting the rise of Ishii to the head of Japan's Yakuza crime syndicate is presented in anime-style. The Bride equips herself with a mythical Hanzo sword and infiltrates a restaurant to attack Ishii and her army of defenders in a monstrously bloody martial arts confrontation.

While the plot of revenge is certainly potent, this is a movie by a movie fan for movie fans. Starting with its title, the film is clear about where it will end. The questions are therefore not about whether The Bride will succeed in earning a confrontation with Bill; rather, the experience is all about how stylishly she will get there. Everything about Kill Bill Vol. 1 is geared towards securing maximum pizazz points, and Tarantino starts by constructing Vol. 1 in a non-linear format, the story of the The Bride bouncing back and forth across time. The transitions are handled with ease, and the structure adds to the film's dynamism.

Combining elements from mythical samurai epics, low-brow kung fu exploitation, Spaghetti Westerns, rape-and-revenge flicks, ultra violent anime movies and gangland thrillers, Tarantino creates a loving homage to the action film. With evocative and powerful music selections borrowed from countless other films propelling the narrative, Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a nitro-fuelled trip.

Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson create masterful images with artistic camera angles, innovative framing, and an expansive, more-is-more approach to film-making. The violence is excessive to the point of grotesque artistry. Blood gushes in rich sprays from severed limbs, sets are covered with dead bodies, and murderous rampages do not even spare the witness of children.

The anime sequence of O-Ren Ishii's story, rising from a child who witnessed her father's murder to the most powerful woman in Japan's underworld, is brilliant, but it is just a prelude. The film ends with The Bride and her Hanzo sword taking on the Crazy 88 gang protecting O-Ren Ishii in an asymmetrical martial arts battle of uniquely wondrous exaggeration, choreographed into an overwhelming battlefield ballet.

Despite the dizzying array of characters, with each having a name and a nickname, Uma Thurman holds the film together in an icy grip of unshakable conviction. Her mix of sexy athleticism and grim determination to kill is spectacular, and she carries the load of The Bride against the world with ridiculous ease.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is magnificently expansive movie making, Tarantino spreading his wings as an artist through a grand tale of love, betrayal and revenge, celebrating his art form while simultaneously enhancing it with a master's flourish.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.