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Kill Bill: Volume One (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of featurette; 5,6,7,8's perform 'Jayne Mansfield' and 'I'm Blue'; Kill Bill Volume 2 teaser; Kill Bill Volume 1 teaser and trailer.

PICTURE the scene. A beautiful blonde approaches the front door of a picture-perfect suburban dwelling, complete with children’s toys strewn across the front lawn, and knocks. Upon answering, she is greeted by an equally-attractive black woman, whom she promptly punches in the face.

Five minutes later, the two women square off to each other, armed with hunting knives and covered in blood, while the young daughter of the home-owner walks up the drive, on her way home from school. We can only be in Quentin Tarantino territory…

Such scenes are typical of the perverse lengths the director will go to appeal to the darker side of our psychology. In the ‘Movie World’ and ‘Quentin Universe’ of Tarantino’s school of film-making, the more extreme the situation, the more likely it is to become forever lodged in our collective film-going psyche.

And Tarantino has a penchant for taking it to the max, as exemplified by his ear-splicing arrival, in Reservoir Dogs, or his bloody bursts of gun-letting, in Pulp Fiction, or even the memorable torture sequence between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, in True Romance (which he wrote).

No one does violence like Quentin Tarantino. It’s brutal, even barbaric, yet one can’t help watching it with some sort of appreciative grin. The director’s skill lies in his ability to make violence appear hip, even funky (courtesy of the well-chosen soundtrack and a relish for black humour), while those who dish it out assume the sort of instant iconic status usually reserved for the likes of Steve McQueen or early Paul Newman.

Hence, Kill Bill: Volume One, his fourth film as director, is the epitome of cool - a brilliantly-realised homage to the likes of Sergio Leone and the Asian kung-fu films of the Seventies, which makes graphic, heavily-stylised violence seem like an art form.

It stars Uma Thurman as the lone survivor of a wedding party massacre, known only as The Bride, who embarks on a quest for revenge after spending four years in a coma.

Volume One finds the former assassin singling out the first two members of an elite group of assassins, known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, or DiVAS, while Volume Two, which follows next February, presents the mouth-watering prospect of her finding, and killing, Bill (the man who orchestrated her ambush).

Along the way, Tarantino presents his usual dazzling array of oddball characters and quirky dialogue that have become a trademark, while also unleashing a hitherto untapped flair for outlandish set pieces, more usually associated with the likes of the Wachowski brothers, or John Woo.

For Kill Bill, he appears to have dispensed with the painful self-indulgences of Jackie Brown (his one, true, disappointment) and gone for out-and-out crowd-pleasing , bringing Volume One to a close with one of the most jaw-droppingly blood-thirsty action extravaganzas ever unleashed by Hollywood.

The Bride’s 20-minute samurai sword battle with 80-plus minions of killer-turned-yakuza boss, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is a virtuoso moment, a gloriously choreographed orgy of violence, that will leave you breathless with excitement. Limbs fly, heads roll, and blood sprays everywhere, yet it contains a visceral beauty that belies its content, courtesy of the presence of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s supremo, Yeun Wo-ping, as martial arts supervisor.

It is during moments such as these that Kill Bill deserves instant recognition as a classic in the mould of the director’s first two movies, as well as being a keenly-observed tribute to the genres it seeks to honour, which are too numerous to list.

For here, Tarantino has achieved what he set out to - bringing audiences a sequence unlike anything else they are likely to see for a long time. As the director, himself, states in interview, ‘Volume One is a straight-ahead, heart-pumping, sit on the edge of your seat, ‘wow’-type of experience’, which should have fans baying for Volume Two.

Yet Volume One isn’t just about the finale, there are plenty of moments to savour along the way, from an anime sequence, involving the back story of Liu’s assassin, to The Bride’s time spent with martial arts legend, Sonny Chiba’s samurai sword-maker.

And his cast reads like a who’s who of classic cinema, from the young girl assassin last seen in Battle Royale, to David Carradine’s towering presence as Bill - whom we never see, but feel the presence of throughout. Thurman, too, provides a force and energy to be reckoned with.

The more cynical may suggest that Kill Bill lacks an emotional resonance that the director dismisses as churlish, for this is designed to ‘get people off’, and does so with aplomb. Volume Two is when things become more complex, and characterisation kicks in.

After a six-year, self-enforced absence, cinema’s wild child is back as only he knows how, tearing up convention and delivering an adrenaline-blast which is every bit as sharp and as thrilling as a swing of The Bride’s blade. It is a film to be amazed by, many times over.

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