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Assassin team member Black Mamba now known as The Bride (Uma Thurman), comes out of a four year coma following the ambush and massacre of her entire wedding party by her colleagues. She was pregnant but left for dead. Intent on revenge, one by one she tracks down her former colleagues, of the elite DiVAS (Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), each codenamed for a different species of poisonous snake – planning to leave the leader, Bill (David Carradine) to last. First, she heads for Pasadena to clash with Vernita Green, codenamed Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox). On her way to Tokyo for a confrontation with O’Ren-Ishii or Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu), The Bride stops in Okinawa to acquire a handmade new sword from master swordmaker Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba). In Volume 2, The Bride continues her journey of vengeance.

Review by Louise Keller:
With its eclectic use of music and inventive mix of genres, Kill Bill is a striking and enigmatic revenge film visually and culturally rich and relentless in its action. Of course the big controversy lies not so much that the violence comprises an abundance of decapitations with gushes of blood, but by the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s much awaited fourth film has been made in two volumes. Surprisingly, even though the narrative relies on the second volume to complete its dramatic arc (unlike other split up films such as The Matrix which are complete within the three acts of each film), Kill Bill never feels as though it is out on a limb (pun intended), but draws us like a magnet as we follow The Bride in her relentless quest to Kill All. 

A melee of genres including Spaghetti Westerns, Asian action and anime, the most surprising element is the strong and highly effective use of music. And even though we don’t get to know very much about Uma Thurman’s character other than she is motivated by revenge, what we see is riveting, as the leggy, lithe modern-day screen goddess slashes, thrashes and shows no mercy through frenzied swordplay and creatively choreographed sequences using wire work, acrobatics and aggressive body language. Thurman holds her our attention all the way and it is hard to imagine a finer choice for this ‘yellow-haired warrior’. Even more remarkable is the fact that Thurman started work on Kill Bill two months after the birth of her second child; looking less like a new mother would be hard to imagine. But while we may lack information about the actual characters, we do know that they live by a code of ethics and The Bride offers each Viper a choice of weapons, a formality to the subsequent duel which has a certain nobility. 

There’s a brutal anime sequence which rains buckets of blood, that recounts O’Ren-Ishii’s backstory, but the highlight is the lengthy Tokyo bar scene with its exotically choreographed fight sequences of a classic samurai sword battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88 fighters, which acts as a precursor to the final confrontation between The Bride and Lucy Liu’s O’Ren-Ishii. Set in a dreamy Japanese snow garden, Thurman dressed in blood-stained bright yellow tracksuit faces Lucy Liu’s icy assassin clad in ceremonial white kimono: the showdown takes place amid gently floating snowflakes, allowing the bright red splash of blood maximum effect. Liu is fabulous and makes every second count. We don’t get to see much of Bill in this first volume, but we do see his monogrammed white handkerchief in black and white in the opening frames, when he wipes blood from The Bride’s face, murmuring ‘Do you think I’m sadistic?’ Tarantino takes us from black and white to colour in a blink of an eye, and challenges his actors to not only perform incredulous feats but also to speak in Japanese. There is no lack of imagination in Kill Bill, and while some may grumble at the two part instalments, Tarantino has shown a leap of courage to bring together in harmony elements that should, by rights, live far apart.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Kill Bill Volume 1? Or Pulpier Fiction, with Pulpiest Fiction to come in 2004? No, actually, it isn’t, but only because those juices that made Pulp Fiction pulsate are missing. Not that Quentin Tarantino seems to have intended them to be there. This is a film in which Tarantino gathers together all the pulpy action film genres of East and West and makes a Spag-Noodle Western with blood red sauce. But the meat is missing. Tarantino parlays the icons of the genres into a post-modern dance macabre. 

Careening wildly between fun action and dramatic action, Kill Bill is clearly an attempt to see how many ways martial arts fights can be stage and photographed in a virtuoso concert for orchestrated mayhem. An ode to them all? Where most martial arts action is pretty bloodless, in this fusion, fountains of blood flow freely. Where the greatest examples of the Western action and Eastern martial arts genres develop characters through the combination of their dialogue and their actions – as well as action in the martial sense – Kill Bill is a simple revenge movie, with multiple revenge targets. You can tell where the movie’s coming from, so to speak, when the central protagonist is a woman who has come back from a four year coma after her accomplices and ex-lover thought they’d killed her. 

Quite why they did that is not immediately apparent (at least in Vol 1) which is another missing element. But the fact that she’s a) a bride and b) pregnant, really pushes the melodrama envelope in the pulpy direction, don’t you think? Or, cynical me, is it to enlarge the demographic with a role model that’s beyond the single, unreproductive butt-kicking female action heroines of other films? I also wonder whose attention lapsed after The Bride is shot in the head; there is no bullet wound, or even blood to speak of in subsequent shots. Can’t be squeamishness…. 

Still, Kill Bill is a visually exciting film, even if there isn’t much sense or reason to the mayhem. But then, neither is there any compassion or much other emotion. That’s why it is probably best approached as a juvenile splatter film – which is ironic considering the R rating it has been given. So it’s a juvenile film for all the juveniles over 18. The rating suggests that the OFLC didn’t quite get Tarantino’s film, or that they don’t think the 16 year olds who are very much a part of the target market, will. For all its stylistic bravura, Kill Bill feels a bit of a self indulgence; opening titles proclaim it as ‘Quentin Tarantino’s 4th film’ as if that piece of information authorised what is to come with the stamp of a genius in action. And for all its chapter headings and structural conceits, it shuffles its cards about, preferring to put its best foot forward with a brilliant opening sequence that is strictly speaking out of sequence – and which had a woman next to me gasping and clamping her mouth with her hand. (The fact she was silly enough to bring a sandwich to the screening denied her any rights to my sympathy.) In conclusion, whatever is said or written about Kill Bill, you can rest assured it’ll be much talked about. So you better see it, hadn’t you.

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CAST: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Lucy Liu, Michael Jai White, Chia Hui Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sonny Chiba, Samuel L. Jackson

PRODUCER: Quentin Tarantino, Lawrence Bender

DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino

SCRIPT: Quentin Tarantino

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: Sally Menke

MUSIC: RZA, Lars Ulrich, Ennio Morricone

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yohei Taneda, David Wasco

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2003

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