Reviewed by: Doug Alcorn
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Sonny Chiba | Directed by: Quentin Tarantino | Produced by: Quentin Tarantino, Lawrence Bender, E. Bennett Walsh | Distributor: Miramax
Sequel: “Kill Bill Volume 2” (2004)
Uma Thurman plays “The Bride” (aka Black Mamba) who was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or DiVAS). The film begins at The Bride’s wedding where Bill (David Carradine), the leader of the DiVAS, shoots her in the head after the DiVAS have viciously murdered everyone at the wedding. The Bride survives the attack and hunts down the other members of DiVAS killing them one by one. While the original script was shot as one three hour film, it has been split into two shorter movies (thus the “Vol. 1”).
In this part, the Bride escapes from the hospital, kills one of the one of the DiVAS (Cobra, played by Vivica A. Fox), and travels to Japan where she kills another of the DiVAS (O-Ren Ishii, AKA Cottonmouth played by Lucy Liu). It ends fairly abruptly after that.
Prior to the Bride’s attack on O-Ren quite a bit of background information is given on how O-Ren rose to be the head crime boss of the Japanese underworld. The first murder O-Ren ever sees is as a little girl from under her parents bed. One of the other crime bosses has her parents murdered. O-Ren then takes advantage (at age 11) of her parent’s murderer’s pedophile tendencies to murder him. O-Ren continues to assassinate other people until she’s recruited by the DiVAS. At some point she wins a bloody contest to become the head boss.
It seems impossible to count how many people die in this film. The fighting is absurdly comic and macabre. Limbs and heads are severed continuously and blood spurts from their wounds like a fire hydrant. While no attempt is made at realism, the constant flow of blood is overwhelming. Even still, some scenes depict realistic violence. This may very well be the most gory film to date. Keep in mind that this was directed by Quinten Tarantino who also directed “Pulp Fiction.”
There is no displayed nudity. However, most of the main characters are women portrayed as highly sexual beings. The Bride pretty much only wears extremely tight clothes and the camera shows this often. During the opening scene, the Bride is already noticeably pregnant and claims the baby belongs to Bill (who is clearly not the groom). While in the hospital one of the nurses prostitutes the Bride while she is in a coma.
I don’t have any counts of how many times which offensive words are used. The “F” word is used many times, as is the Lord’s name taken in vain. Obviously, there is so much objectionable material in this movie that how many times what disagreeable words are said becomes almost immaterial.
The main theme of the film is revenge. Every scene is built upon that and serves to justify it. Towards the end of the movie one of the assassins comments that the Bride’s going to kill them all and they deserve to die. The Bride is a self-described as cold, un-forgiving, and merciless. When fighting Cobra she claims that nothing Cobra could have done during the last four years could absolve her of her guilt.
The Bride convinces an ex-swordmaker to come out of retirement even though he had taken a vow “to create nothing that kills.” She reasons that the ex-swordmaker should equip her because he is guilty for having trained Bill. The ex-swordmaker’s sadness at giving up his vow is emphasized, but demonstrated to be subservient to revenge.
There are several things that will attract audiences to this film. First, much media hype has been given to Tarantino’s return after a six year hiatus. Second, Tarantino’s skill as a director keeps the story (such as it is) engaging throughout the film. Under his direction all of the characters give convincing performances.
In summary, I should have left this film. I was totally caught off guard. I didn’t realize Tarantino had directed it and thus didn’t have the associations of other films such as “Pulp Fiction.” I hadn’t seen more than a couple of commercials for it. The only thing I really knew was that it was a martial arts film with dry humor choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping staring Uma Thurman. All of those things are true. What I didn’t realize was how gruesome and cruel it is.
Let me list some of the offensive aspects of this film: almost every available limb on the human body hacked off, fountains of blood sprayed out of every hacked off limb, horribly foul language, pedophilia, sex with a comatose woman, and a disembowling.
I was intrigued by the previews for this movie and thought Tarantino might actually make a hip, funny, well-done martial arts revenge movie. Instead he does what he always does: shocks, offends, and shows us in his writing how bleak and shallow his view of humanity is. Tarantino is a B-movie director who, by sheer technical talent (which he does possess), continues to make A-list movies. This movie is plotless, base, offensive and should be avoided by everyone.
Tarantino successfully removes everything that makes a person human from this movie and gives us a 2-hour blood-and-gore, plotless revenge story that will turn stomachs and make you groan. I’ve only walked out of one movie in my life: “Natural Born Killers”. If not for my curiosity towards the technical aspects of the fight choreography, I would have left this one after 10 minutes. STAY AWAY!!!…
—T. Patrick, age 30