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Kill Bill, The Whole Dang Thing – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on March 2, 2010

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, David Carradine, Vivica A Fox, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba

Vol. 1: 8/10

Vol. 2: 6/10

This review by Pat Owens. My Wife and I watched Kill Bill Vol.1 the night before we got married!

Okay, so there’s this Bride played by Uma Thurman who is trying to start a new life for herself after leaving an organization of professional killers. Only problem is, the head of the organization, Bill (David Carradine) doesn’t want her to leave and has the Bride and her entire wedding party killed at what has come to be called “The Massacre at Two Pines Chapel”. Unfortunately, they botch the job and, after 4 years in a coma, the Bride wants revenge. And she’s good at it…quite good at it.

The entire story of Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL is done in two separate movies, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and the two films couldn’t be any more different. Tarantino himself says this was quite intentional; he wanted the first film to have all the questions, and the second to have all the answers.

Vol. 1 is a colorful, non-stop action film from start to finish as we follow the Bride from one duel-to-the-death to another, with practically no time for characterization or exposition in between. What back story is provided is only there to give the audience time to catch their breath before the next crazy action sequence. In fact, the only real background we get at all is for O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu) and the reasons behind her climb to the top of the ladder in the Japanese underworld. This leads to one of the most incredible fight scenes ever filmed, with the Bride single-handedly taking on Ishii’s bodyguards, the Crazy 88s.

This is Tarantino’s homage to the Japanese Yakuze films of the 60s & 70s, complete with bright pop colors, an overabundance of severed limbs, and enough movie blood to fill an Olympic-size pool. There are quirky little touches throughout, such as the break in mid-death match for a cup of coffee and to greet Vivica Fox’s character’s daughter when her school bus drops her off. And it all works quite well and would make a great stand alone action film, except it was never intended to stand alone, but only to raise a checklist of questions (who exactly IS the Bride? How did she get so expert with a samurai sword? Who is Bill?) to be answered in Vol. 2.

And Vol. 2 is an entirely different style of film. This one is a tribute to spaghetti westerns and as such everything is toned down, from the color palette to the action. In fact, this one is much more dialogue driven and contains only a fraction of the over-the-top fighting that was in Vol. 1. And that is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Good, because it gives the actors something to do and, more important, time in which to do it. There would have been no time between the action in Vol. 1 for us to learn about Michael Madsen’s character of Budd, Bill’s brother. Given enough time in Vol. 2, Madsen toys with our feelings and has us sympathizing for him and almost hoping he’ll be spared the Bride’s vengeful blade, before he turns around and stabs our hopes in the back (he is, after all, a professional assassin).

Bad, because, since it is a film of explanations, the pacing seems to suffer in several of the more “talky” scenes, and we find ourselves biding our time waiting for the next action scene to break things up. Alas, that action scene isn’t there to save us. In this one, the action is used to break up the exposition.

And whereas the first film is wildly non-sequential, this film is quite ordered and, except for a flashback explaining some of the Bride’s training, follows a logical progression, building to the inevitable showdown with the man responsible for all her pain. Bill himself doesn’t seem to be a man of action…he doesn’t need to be. Carradine masterfully portrays him as an intellect, rising to the top not simply because he’s the best fighter, but because he is smart enough to constantly remain one step ahead of his enemies.

So, two separate films done in two different styles, each of which depends on the other for its existence. Does it work? Again, that depends. Neither one can really stand on its own, so they really should be watched together. However, if you’re like me and prefer the first, you only need to watch Vol. 2 one time, to get all the answers to questions raised in the previous film. Then you can get your action fix to your heart’s content without having to do much thinking at all. And isn’t that sometimes all we want from a film?

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