USA / English
Proudly billed as "the fourth film by Quentin Tarantino", Kill Bill, Volume 1
is actually half of it (if you include his chunk of Four Rooms
it's really the fourth and a quarterth). If Jackie Brown
achieved a certain maturity beyond callous cool, then this is his Mr Hyde's trash picture, which relishes all the things in cinema that are supposed to be bad for you. The opening Shaw Brothers logo and cheesy "our feature presentation" card, redolent of rancid Kia-Ora and stale Wrestlers, sets this up as defiantly a movie-geek's movie, whose touchstones are spaghetti Westerns, comic books, kung fu/samurai quickies and second-hand vinyl albums. If Kill Bill
was a dog-eared paperback, it'd be confiscated by a teacher.
Tarantino's favoured flashback-and-forth structure means we begin with a shuffle between past and present as the Bride with No Name (Uma Thurman) is shown being apparently murdered at the climax of a Texas wedding chapel massacre and alive again tracking down the second person on her to-kill list. The bulk of the film takes place between these plot points as the Bride carries a vengeance feud to the first of her enemies, yakuza queenpin O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). Like its soundtrack--everything from Nancy Sinatra to the RZA, with the Green Hornet theme along the way--it's an eclectic picture, with sequences done as a gruesome anime, particularly genocidal stretches in black and white, and segues from cheerful kung fu massacre to Kurosawa-look poised duelling. Tarantino holds back on his trademark motormouth pop culture references; in fact, much of the film is in sub-titled Japanese.
You have to lock your brain into trash-film mode to get the most out of it, but its cliffhanger fade-out--unlike the dispiriting "to be continued" at the end of Matrix Reloaded--makes you want to come back. It's not a spoiler to reveal that Bill (a barely glimpsed David Carradine) hasn't been killed yet, and Thurman needs to take out Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen before she gets to him. --Kim Newman
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