Friday, February 17, 2012

100 Movies - No. 49: Kill Bill Vol. 1

49. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Action, Crime, Drama, 111 minutes
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah

I’m a big fan of Chungking Express and remember reading that Quentin Tarantino cries when he watches it because he loves it so much. That’s how I feel when I watch the two Kill Bill movies. Within three minutes, I hear Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and I’m transported into another world. It reminds me of what I'm in for. Every choice that Tarantino makes, from story, to dialogue and music, is absolutely perfect. I feel like he made this film with me in mind.

Uma Thurman was born to play the role of The Bride. I’m still not sure how she managed to keep a straight face as she spoke the dialogue.

It took me five years to bother seeing Kill Bill because I don't embrace things with senseless violence. The movie suggests extreme violence, but shows hardly any of it, just the result. The cuts are convincing and have the same effect as if you had seen the violent acts. I expected Thurman to prance around with a samurai sword, hacking people to pieces. In fact, she pretty much does, but there's so much more to the story.

First of all, she makes me care. Her back story makes her actions seem justified, but I also feel pity for O-Ren Ishii (Liu) when we see what happened to her when she was a child (brilliantly portrayed anime style). The film uses a number of tricks such as stills, black and white, slow motion, silhouettes, changing aspect ratios, and extreme close-ups. The pacing, humor, drama and action all seem to be woven together perfectly.

Kill Bill is a simple story of revenge. We learn in the opening scene that The Bride was shot in the head at her wedding rehearsal and spent four years in a coma as a result. The story isn’t linear, so the first person we see her kill is actually second on her Death List. Although it reveals that she successfully killed O-Ren Ishii by showing a line through her name, none of the tension is lost when we are shown their epic battle.

We see The Bride recover from her coma and visit Japan in search of O-Ren Ishii. There’s a great scene involving Sonny Chiba and we eventually see The Bride hunt down O-Ren Ishii and her minions. The showdown is approximately an hour long and it’s intense. Thurman looks like she can handle a sword and stunt double Zoe Bell handles the more difficult scenes.

It’s hard to think about the film without using the word perfect. The battle involves dozens of fighters as The Bride hacks her way through the obstacles standing between her and O-Ren Ishii. The contrast between those scenes and the final fight is stunning. Instead of being surrounded by a noisy mob, The Bride and O-Ren fight in a quiet setting. It’s a very effective transition.

I always watch Kill Bill Vol. 2 after seeing Vol. 1 and think of it as one long film. If you think that the characters feel incomplete, the concluding volume fleshes them out and makes them seem a lot more real. This first installment contains most of the action and fans of that genre should be happy with the result.

I watch the two Kill Bill movies more than anything else. It's four hours of fun and pure escapism. 

If you like Kill Bill Vol. 1: 

The most obvious recommendation is Kill Bill Vol. 2. There's more dialogue and less action, but if you love the first part, you're likely to soak up the additional information with glee. The final showdown is both unexpected and brilliant. I would have both volumes on hand when you watch the first, because you will probably want to see how the story plays out at the earliest opportunity.

All of Tarantino's films are worth watching if you like his style. The Kill Bill movies have the most action, but all contain the interesting dialogue and perfect music placement. It's a very particular brand of humor and you'll love all his releases if that's your preferred style. I won't say more than that because his name crops up later in this 100 movies list.


  1. I saw Kill Bill with my friends on opening night. The theater manager popped in before they fired up the projector (something I've never experienced before or since) and told the packed house that we were in for a very special treat, as this was the finest film he'd had the privilege of screening at his theater. He was absolutely right. Perfection.

  2. Ha! Great story. It's always a lot of fun watching Kill Bill.

  3. "...I hear Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and I’m transported into another world. It reminds me of what I'm in for. Every choice that Tarantino makes, from story, to dialogue and music, is absolutely perfect. I feel like he made this film with me in mind."

    Damn, I feel the same way. I was 13 when it came out and it changed my life. I became obsessed. I gained a new appreciation for movies.

  4. I had a moment like that with a film that will be No. 64 in this list. I just realized that 10 of the 100 start with the letter M. I'm almost 50 and I love Kill Bill just like you do. It's impressive for a film to have that much appeal.

  5. Hi, Steven! Here's my Kill Bill review, featured on SBS Film:

  6. Hi Fernando,

    Great review. We agree on a lot of the things that make Kill Bill memorable. Keep writing!

  7. This is my favourite action film of all time. While pretty much every film fanatic hails Pulp Fiction as Tarantino's best, I liked Kill Bill on a whole different level. I love how over the top it was throughout, then they had a beautifully toned down final battle between Liu and Thurman. It's just spectacular! So glad it's on your 100 List.

    1. Yeah, it's firmly in my Top 10. So much fun, and everything fits together perfectly. My 100 movies series is in alphabetical order, and is not strictly a Top 100, as mentioned in my disclaimer.