Thursday Night Movie Club
Kill Bill Volume 1
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Release Date: October 10, 2003

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Uma Thurman
Lucy Liu
Daryl Hannah
Vivica A. Fox
David Carradine
Michael Madsen
Julie Dreyfus
Michael Parks
Sonny Chiba
Chiaki Kuriyama
Chia Hui Liu
Jun Kunimura
Kenji Ohba
Yuki Kasumatsuri
The Bride
O-Ren Ishii
Elle Driver
Vernita Green
Sofie Fatale
Earl McGraw
Hattori Hanzo
Gogo Yubari
Johnny Mo
Boss Tanaka
Bald Guy (in sushi shop)
Kill Bill Volume 1 movie poster
Uma Thurman as the Bride in Kill Bill Volume 1Not Quentin Tarantino's best film! O.K., that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is quite good and quite engaging. As usual, it is both disturbing and outrageously funny, sometimes in the same sequence. Tarantino has a fine sense of writing complemented by the use of the camera.

It starts with a battered and bloody bride, presumably at her wedding. She is conversing with the title character, Bill. This is done entirely in a close-up, extended shot. Bill is professing his love for "The Bride" while at the same time, he is the one responsible for the bloodshed at the chapel. The scene ends with "The Bride" telling Bill she is pregnant, just as a gun shot goes off shooting her in the head. Very disturbing!

The next scene shows Sheriff Earl McGraw driving up to the crime scene. On his dashboard is every imaginable color of sunglasses, all in the same aviator style. In the wide screen shot, the entire frame is covered, side to side, with sun glasses. A wonderfully funny visual after such a brutal scene.

Of course, the Bride is not dead yet, otherwise there would not be much of a story. The rest of the film is told in a series of time-jump sequences that Tarantino made famous in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Tarantino's trademark. As this is volume one, the technique works.

As the story unfolds, a few members of the now-defunct "Deadly Viper Squad" are introduced. Elle Driver pays a visit to the comatose Bride to inject her with a deadly poison. Elle Driver is wearing an eye patch. When she changes into a nurse's outfit to blend in with the hospital setting, her eye patch changes to show the "Red Cross" logo. Another visual treat! At the last moment, Elle is interrupted by a phone call. It's from Bill ordering her to stop the hit as the Bride deserves her revenge, if she ever recovers.

Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill Volume 1After four years in a coma, The Bride awakens to reek her revenge on those that assaulted her. Her "first" victim is Vernita Green, now a housewife with a child the same age that the Bride's child would be. This sets up a little suspense for Volume 2. The Bride must be working off some "Killer's Code of Ethics" as she chats with Vernita for a few minutes before the fight begins... and what a fight. As both women, lose and recapture their knives, they use almost every item in a domestic household as an offensive/defensive weapon. With both women battered and bloody, the fight is interrupted when Vernita's daughter comes home from school. Only Tarantino could pull off the wide-shot through the picture window of the two combatants going at each other with a vengeance as a school bus pulls up outside. With Tarantino's sense of choreography, he really should take a stab at a musical!

But Tarantino has one last visual joke to top off this scene. After the daughter is sent to her room, the two women retire to the kitchen for some coffee. As they make plans to meet in a deserted playground at midnight for a final confrontation to the death, Vernita is preparing a snack for her daughter. She is pouring cereal from an appropriately labeled box of "Ka-Boom"! If this isn't foreshadowing, you're not paying attention to Tarantino's quirkiness. The cereal box contains a gun that Vernita tries to kill the Bride with. Of course, she fails or else there would not be a movie!

Of course, the daughter is curious about the gun shot she hears and comes in to the kitchen to find her mother dead on the floor as the Bride pulls her knife out of the corpse. The Bride calmly tells the daughter that if she wants revenge, to look up the Bride. She will be waiting, thus setting up volume three! (You can't make a movie without thinking about the sequel.)

To fully highlight Tarantino's use of flash backs, the scene ends with The Bride scratching Vernita Green's name off of her list. Vernita is second on the list. O-Ren Ishii is first! Having seen all of Tarantino's films, the use of flash backs is a common story-telling element.

Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale in Kill Bill Volume 1

Are you catching anything similar in the above paragraphs? The fact is this is volume 1 and the Bride will survive to make the sequel. Kind of like a James Bond movie in that you know the heroine won't die. This takes a lot of the suspense out of volume 1. Since Tarantino is not troubled by simple plot points, like answering questions, he is free to indulge is visual and writing skills to the max.

The second half of the movie concerns the Bride's revenge upon O-Ren Ishii in Tokyo. O-Ren has become the leader of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Tarantino is a big fan of Anime, Japanese adult animation. This is his homage to that genre. This is made plainly obvious in yet another flash-back sequence, done entirely in the style of Anime, to tell the background story of O-Ren. (It was at this point that I became suspicious of the story... I'll reveal this in my review of Kill Bill: Volume Two.) Like the rest of the film, the animated sequence is visual and visceral but not without its visual sense of humor from the macabre point of view. Yes, one has to be a little "off" to enjoy the jokes Tarantino puts into his films.

The highlight of the film is a visual sequence in the sushi bar that Orson Wells would be smiling in his grave over. The Bride has spent several days tracking O-Ren to get a full understanding of her target and the people surrounding her. At the start of the final confrontation, The Bride tracks O-Ren to her favorite sushi bar. The Bride walks across the room, down a hallway and into the Women's rest room. In one of the stalls, the Bride is silently contemplating the start of her revenge. The camera moves back outside to pick up the owners of the restaurant with a tray of beers for O-Ren's party and then across to the dance floor where an all-girl band is playing with patrons dancing. The camera continues to move to pick up O-Ren's Personal Assistant, Sofie Fatale walking .down a flight of stairs passed The Bride sitting at the bar. The Bride follows her across the dance floor and back into the women's rest room. When Sofie gets a call on her cell phone, The Bride recognizes hearing that same ring pattern on the day she was assaulted. Sofie was in the chapel. This justifies The Bride's murderous quest!

This is a great visual, visceral thrill ride! Let's hope all movies don't start following Peter Jackson's lead with The Lord of the Rings and start releasing all movies in multiple parts.

Other things I found fascinating: The Green Hornet theme as the Bride follows Sofie; the logo on the side of the jetliner taking The Bride to Tokyo; The Bride stops the ringing of her sword with a pat of her hand; The Bride, upon being presented with her custom-made Hanzo sword, sees her reflection in the blade (She uses this to see behind her during her assault on O-Ren's troops); the close-focus shot of the water fountain as The Bride and O-Ren battle, out of focus, in the background; the closing theme song is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti westerns.