Damn, I say. Damn!. To quote, of course, Uma Thurman in her earlier Tarantino flick 'Pulp Fiction'. That sentence about sums it up. Years after the lacklustre 'Jackie Brown', Tarantino has returned with his fourth film, and it's one mean bitch of a movie. Seriously... Damn!
It's not often a movie with this much hype lives up to it's expectations, but 'Kill Bill' does just that, and pretty handily too. This has elements of classic Quentin, but goes beyond that. Tarantino has downplayed his penchant for witty dialogue and character films to bring us what is arguably one the greatest pure action films ever to grace the screen.
There are no pretensions here. This is a throwback to the 70's, when action heros' could take on hundreds of enemies in crazy kung-fu battles while snapping off witty remarks. No, it's not realistic. No, it's not oscar worthy characted development. No, it's not a landmark in cinematic creativity. But... Yes! It has katanas. Katanas! It has Uma Thurman sporting an (almost, please don't write in complaining) Bruce Lee outfit. It has an atrocity which is suitably outrageous, and a thirst for vengeance to match. It has corpses that are completely happy with spurting litres of blood for a good little while.
It has everything a true action fan wants to see. A quick backstory, before we delve any further. Thurman plays 'The Bride', more commonly known as 'Black Mamba', part of the all-woman 'Deadly Viper Assasination Squad'. Kudos to Tarantino for bringing B-movie classics into mainstream cinema. Regardless, poor Thurman is at her wedding, when she finds out the world of international murder is less than friendly. Her wedding party is murdered by the rest of her squad, and Mamba and her unborn child are just about to eat a bullet. Funny thing, the man who fires it is Bill, her employer.. and father of her child. But don't write Black Mamba off too quickly, a bullet in the head won't quite do for her. Awaking from a coma four years later, it's time to the settle the score. First, to kill the women she counted as friends. And then? Why her lover of course. Kill Bill.
And there's the plot. Doesn't really matter though. Screw substance, 'Kill Bill' is all about the delivery. We're treated to Tarantino's signature style, and then some. A scene that especially stands out is the backstory on Oren Ishii, (Cottonmouth, played by Lucy Liu) told all in anime. It's bloody but wonderful to behold, and slides nicely into the movie as a whole. It's a very unique method, and works gorgeously. You can also expect his signature music, and scenes of ridiculous gore juxtaposed with an upbeat soundtrack. Tarantino uses it all to create a wonderful sense of happy (albeit ridiculously bloody) disbelief.
The acting is pretty solid. David Carradine as Bill suits the role perfectly, and Liu and Fox work well as Cottonmouth/Copperhead respectively. (they're all named after snakes... deadly vipers, 'member?). Uma Thurman is excellent as 'Black Mamba', she manages to infuse an essentially flat character with plenty of realism.
Regardless, the real star in this movie is the action - and there's plenty of it. Tarantino pulls out all the stops. Thurman kills two of her old coworkers in this movie. Although the (chronological) second goes down relatively easy, the (film-wise) first is a lot harder. Played by Lucy Liu, Oren Ishii is a deadly Yakuza Boss. Travelling to Okinawa to find rare 'steel', Black Mamba then heads to Tokya to dispatch Oren. What ensues is a mind boggling fight between Thurman and about seventy members of Oren's gang (the crazy 88). Cue limbs flying off, blood spurting several feet, arms hacked off, impalements, eyes being ripped out, a katana spanking, pretty well everything. Welcome back to the age of heroes, where nothing's impossible.
Just in case Katana's aren't enough for you, there's an excellent scene with 'Black Mamba' fighting 'Gogo' (Oren's bodyguard). Seems simple, but let's give Mamba a katana, yes, and let's set up Gogo as a 17 year old japanese school girl complete with kilt and all. Not enough? Let's give her a morning star. With retractable blades, on a really looooong chain. Poor Ms. Thurman. Expect a very intense fight. In fact, in most fights, there's almost every close range weapon you can imagine worked in, and the ensuing action scenes are all excellent. You can trust Tarantino to throw one completely out of whack, cutting to black/white and switching up the music halfway through. And after? The lights go out, and there's only a rear wall lit with blue lights. It looks almost like a music video. Except in 'Kill Bill', the choreography involves heads and limbs being chopped off in a seamless dance of death. Pretty.
'Kill Bill' is truly an excellent movie. It just doesn't deliver as a whole movie. Being Volume 1, it lacks any kind of resolutions. However, they've cut it well, and we're left with a bit of surprise at the end. An excellent introduction in what will hopefully be an equally strong finish.