For starters: Welcome back, Quentin.
There isnít really a way to talk about Kill Bill without
mentioning its violence, so Iíll get that out of the way now.
Itís fucking gruesome. Possibly the most violently bloody
mainstream American movie ever. Things, many things, are severed,
intestines are spilled, heads are impaled, crushed, or both,
and a lip is bitten off, believe it or not. And every single
minute is thrilling, offbeat, and thisclose to taking
the plunge into full-on hysterical comedy, but still never
letting it slip.
Like I said, Welcome back, Quentin.
Uma Thurman plays a woman known only as The Bride
(every time someone in the film says her name, itís bleeped
out), a former assassin for the Deadly Viper Assassination
Squad (known as DiVAS, heh), who tried to get out after discovering
she was pregnant and was punished severely for trying. In
flashback, she tells us what happened, namely that her former
colleagues invaded her wedding and murdered everyone there,
including her husband-to-be and her unborn child. Miraculously,
she survived, but only to end up in a coma for four years.
When she awakens, thatís when things get moving.
The Bride has created a list, the Death-List Five. Her attackers
are listed on it in the order she plans to kill them, culminating
with the Bill of the title (Carradine, playing the
elusive card nicely), her former boss and, to make things
more complicated, former lover. What follows is an epic vengeance
story, mythic in scope, intimate in the little details, and
so rich with grind-house film lore it could keep an obscure-film
buff busy for days thinking it over.
And Tarantino has been quoted as saying that Kill Bill
is his grind-house movie. Itís easy to see how he makes that
distinction. The violence here has a vaguely pornographic
sheen to it, as if killing hundreds and getting off are two
sides of the same acid-burned coin. Thereís no denying the
voyeuristic pleasure you get from watching these beautiful
women face off in various iconic clothes (the jumpsuit, the
schoolgirl skirt, the kimono, the nurseís outfit), and certain
fight scenes, particularly the near-spiritual showdown between
Liu and Thurman, seem like they were staged with an eye toward
the romanticís idealism: itís like the holy coming together
of two warriors in love who have waited for this moment their
Itís in those moments between the women, those moments that
feed the mythology conceived in the backstory, that Kill
Bill has instances of very real human emotion. Thereís
regret, shame, disappointment, but, mostly, thereís just the
heaviness of betrayal, with both sides, perpetrators and victim,
trying desperately to make things right, but always knowing
that revenge is never the remedy it promises to be. In Kill
Bill, Tarantino is wise enough to realize that satisfaction
more often than not is the ultimate missing link to revenge.
And if he had explored that a little more, he would have
a freaking masterpiece. As it stands, though, Kill Bill
is a grinder homage that never quite lets down its flippant
veneer long enough to be much more than an outstanding film
diversion. Tarantino is usually careful enough not to let
his irony get the best of his story, but at unguarded moments,
Kill Bill is too self-conscious for its own good. With
Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino weaved
a nice combination of look-at-this bravado and respectful
tribute, but even then you could see the seams starting to
wear. Jackie Brown was less flash, more subtle genre
admiration, and has been his most emotionally rich film so
far. But now, with Kill Bill, I think Tarantino may
have finally let his irony go on too far without check. Because,
while Kill Bill may be the most exciting film Iíve
seen in years, I canít shake the idea that the filmmaking