Movie Review

KILL BILL Volume 1

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content

Reviewed by: Doug Alcorn
CONTRIBUTOR


Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adult
Genre:
Crime Action Adventure Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 50 min.

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

Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
Copyright, Miramax
 

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.

Year of Release—2003

See our review of Kill Bill 2


Viewer Comments
Negative—I have to agree with every comment listed in the above quotes from the critics. This is one of the most morally offensive movies I have ever seen. I have seen all of Tarantino’s movies and I must say I’ve never been a fan of anything he has to say (which usually isn’t much), but he is quite skilled in the technical aspects of filmmaking. That said, the bad definitely outweighs the good here. No kidding, there is no good. I was anticipating this movie because I am a martial artist and have always been fascinated with good martial arts choreography. This has none of that here.

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!!!…
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—T. Patrick, age 30

Neutral—…one of the most extremely bloody and violent films I have ever seen. Actually it is the most bloody LIVE ACTION film I have ever seen. Japanese anime, which Director Tarantino says this film pays homage to, often has times very similar scenes to those found in “Kill Bill”. As a fan of Anime, I was quite prepared for the violence in the film. But as stated by others reviewing “Kill Bill”, do not go see this movie if you cannot handle large amounts of blood and violence.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—Toby Kostner, age 23
Positive—The film is rated R for strong, bloody violence (this cannot be stressed enough, the violence is stylistically over-the-top, extreme, and constant), language (though not as frequent as Tarantino’s other films due to less dialogue, extremely strong), and sexual content (some very crude and vulgar sexual references and dialogue). The film is a simple revenge tale light on plot and heavy on bloody action. It is an homage to the cheap martial arts films of old and not to be taken seriously, but many people will still be offended. We cannot stress enough that many audiences will not want to see this film. I recommend the film for adults only, and even then please use discretion. If you’ll be offended or bothered by the extreme violence or offensive content, don’t go see the film.

And while this bloody action romp is admittedly lacking in substance, it is certainly overflowing with style. The film is a simple revenge tale… this is really just a stereotypical action movie. However, it’s a stereotypical action movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, which means that its incredibly quirky, funny, stylish, and cool. The cinematography is absolutely brilliant, acting as the dialogue in the film. With the focus on action, there’s not as much of Tarantino’s witty dialogue as normal, and in that respect, the photography replaces it. There are some amazing camera movements, wonderful black-and-white scenes, an action scene shot entirely in silhouette, and many other visual treats as the film culminates in one of the finest action sequences ever put on film. The action is without question the high point of the film. Though the movie takes a while to really get fun, once The Bride heads to Japan and begins her fight with Ishii and her “Crazy 88” gang (prefaced by a terrific scene with Japanese movie icon Sonny Chiba) it becomes an immensely enjoyable experience.

The massive battle in a Japanese restaurant changes between color, black and white, and silhouette and contains some great sword choreography by Hong Kong master Yuen Wo-Ping (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “The Matrix” films) that is every bit as good (and more realistic) than his other work. However, to offer fair warning, the scene is a bloodbath by any standard. Tarantino goes over-the-top with the violence, with every severed limb or head yielding a literal geyser of blood. The stylized gore actually plays some comedic purpose as well, as the final reveal of the restaurant after the melee shows a room drenched completely with red.

Thus the film gets from me a rave review, but also a strong disclaimer. The film is incredibly violent, even by Tarantino standards. …If you can stomach it, and are not offended by typical Tarantino offensive language and content, this is one of the finest action films of our day. Often times action/martial arts films are directed by second-rate directors, so it is indeed an amazing experience to see one done by one of the most talented directors alive today. Though I was worried by the film being sliced in two, it actually stands on its own quite well (in fact, after the final fight we really need a break) with a surprisingly effective cliffhanger ending. The plot isn’t the most engrossing ever developed, but I must admit I’m quite excited about the prospect of seeing The Bride Kill Bill in February.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—D.J. Williams, age 20
Neutral—Not for children or any with a weak stomach. I cannot recall seeing a movie with so much blood. All characters are motivated by an evil nature, except perhaps the swordmaker. The heroine seeks revenge and at no time displays mercy. I understand her need for revenge—to even the score—but it is outside any biblical authorization. God says “Vengeance belongs to Me.” but the heroine takes full possession of it. This is worse because she recognized her brutal attackers and could and should have relied on the civil authorities to exact justice. I guess that would not have made an interesting movie. Ironically, the evil Bill, the main object of the heroine’s revenge, allows the heroine to live when she is comatose in the hospital. To do this he has to stop one of his assassins who is in the process of administering a lethal injection. One thing the movie does show is the reality and horror of death. It also accurately displays the depravity of man. These folks have just sunk a little lower than most of us. Again, if violent and gory images disturb you, stay away.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4]
—Mark L. Gilliam, age 41
Positive—…I too found the movie’s violence more than over the top, and felt it violated my own personal view regarding movies: That no matter what the behavior, or language, if it’s appropriate at that time for the character to commit to those actions, and it’s not done gratuitously, or for the sake of shock, then it’s permissible. Even though the violence was at a surreal, and in some instances, cartoonish level, I found myself looking away. As for as what type of Christian world view this movie espouses… I really can’t say that it does espouse one! There are moments when you feel sorry for the “Bride”, whose name incidentally, they bleep out, which is Beatrix, as the assassins try to kill her, I remember that she is a cold blooded killer, just like the rest of the “Diva” squad, and that she deserves no better treatment, she is a sinner like the rest of them. In the final analysis, if you simply cannot watch movie violence on any level, especially at the level as in “Kill Bill,” I would simply recommend you not watch it, for your own good.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Libertine, age 24
Negative—I blithely attended the film not knowing what I was getting into. Afterwards, I truly felt like I needed a good bath. But I also happened to view this movie with a gentleman who is an unbeliever, and I learned something very important that night. One of his comments during our discussion afterward was, “If the story wasn’t fictional, how do you know it wasn’t God using an unbeliever (The Bride) to work His justice upon a band of killers who were unreachable by the standard arm of authority?”

That statement got me really thinking about the film in Biblical terms. And as offensive as it was, it put me face to face with the extreme consequences of an unforgiving spirit. One thing others forgot to mention during the above reviews (which were all dead-on accurate, I might add), was that there is a little bit of “The Bride” in all of us. Let me explain…

Thurman’s character is a stark object lesson of the very thing true followers of Christ should not be. Her revenge obsessed motives are a mirror, shaming us, and causing us to flinch away in denial. Make no mistake, as horrible and offensive as the movie was overall… I’d actually RECOMMEND the film exclusively to adult believers (and only adults) who are still obsessively living as victims of their past abuse… instead of conquerors in Christ. And I’d show it to them only as a last resort if those forgiveness seminars they took don’t seem to be sinking in.

If you’re having trouble “letting go” of some of your past hurts/traumas/ordeals, and forgiving others (just as Christ forgave you) is just a little too much to ask… then watching this film is a serious shot in the arm. I can honestly say after watching Kill Bill vol. 1, that I will think twice before I try to take the sword from God’s hand and use it as I please… lest I bear any resemblance to The Bride. Praise Jesus for His Grace and mercy on us all.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
—Paul Jacoby, age 30
Comments from young people
Neutral—Well, first of all, you probably already know that this is a violent film. The media has reiterated this fact over and over, and led me to believe that it was in fact worse than it was. I attended the viewing and although many people were dismembered with fountains of blood, it was VERY fake. Of course it was meant to look fake as a parody. And the most gruesome parts were shown in black and white or in the anime sequence. I can get past the violence, because I know it’s not real, and I do not believe in solving a problem this way. All I know is that action movies can be entertaining. There are hardly any special effects (the only one being a slow-motion shot of a bullet leaving its barrel) which is very welcomed. It uses wires to perform its very well-choreographed stunts. The only other major offenses in the movie are a scene in which a male nurse receives money from another man to be allowed to have sex with a comatose women (the Bride played by Uma Thurman), and the very much excessive use of every swear word there is along with sexual slang words (some portrayed on a vehicle).

When you look past objectionable things, you’ll realize that the plot is quite simple, but Tarintino can pull off many things. I enjoyed the dialogue (although the swearing distracted me), and it was amazing how the actors performed. They did a very good job portraying their characters. There was a lot of dialog, but all the characters had presence, which you had to have to be able to play the part. I also found it interesting that there were many female lead roles in the movie.Like mentioned above, the choreography was top-notch, and no doubt the result of hiring the person responsible for the Matrix’s choreography.

My final verdict is this: I enjoyed the movie, but had to look past all its objectionable content. The violence wasn’t as bad as it could have been since it was meant to look fake as a parody. If you are a Christian, which I am, you must decide at how much you can handle. A movie like this does not sway me into thinking what took place in it is ok. I only saw it for the entertainment value, which I thought was quite good. I give it a Positive rating based solely on the movie-making quality, cleverness and enjoyability in my viewing. I also must stress that no one under 15 should see it, since it is violent with swearing and some strong sexual concepts, and even then, the child should be mature for his/her age.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4]
—Spenser Williams, age 16
Neutral—I thought this movie was entertaining, it made fun of foreign film by having terrible anime, loads of blood, drawn-out sequences, and lots of chinese people. It did get boring a lot, but the action was entertaining. They literally bleed like fire hydrants. It was all so over the top I don’t see how anyone could take it seriously or be offended.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
—Adam, age 16
Positive—To be frank I’m going to first of all say, I loved this movie. The kung-fu fighting rivals that of the Matrix trilogy. However, there are some scenes that parents might want to watch before before letting their kids see this film. Younger audiences might find some disturbing images, like that of the Bride in the beginning film, or namely the intense amount of blood depicted during the fight scenes. Also, parents might not like the revenge based plot. However, if your over 17, likes cool fighting scenes, enjoyed the movie Pulp Fiction, and if your ready to enjoy the coolest soundtrack ever. Kill Bill vol. 1 just might be a movie you ought to check out.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Tony, age 17
Positive—Kill Bill is the most ridiculous, over the top movie since “From Dusk Till Dawn” (also written by Tarantino). Provided you can stomach the rivers of blood, this makes for a very entertaining couple of hours of viewing. However, the film’s content was extremely offensive. There were several references to sex (described in detail), quite a considerable amount of bad language (although not nearly as much as Tarantino’s other movies) and, as I have already mentioned, a ridiculous amount of blood and violence (which is mostly done for laughs). I advise anyone who may be offended by the content I have listed to think carefully before they see Kill Bill. Violence and language aside, this is a very entertaining movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
—Chris Rogers, age 16
Neutral—Overall, this film is just odd. I saw it when it came out on DVD. After I saw all the great reviews on the film I was really looking forward to the martial arts thrill ride. First of all, there was a huge freak out over the “strong, ridiculously graphic, brutal violence!” This actually got me interested. What was all the raving about? It was about a bunch of unnecessary, cheap, somewhat funny, red-dyed water hosing out of dead bodies. Uma Thurman would touch a guy with a sword, and he would split completely in half. The blood in the animated part of the film was more realistic.

The language was much more graphic than the violence. I was totally caught off guard by the numerous uses of the “F” word. Kill Bill is the kind of movie in my opinion you can’t recommend, but you also can’t say it’s a waste of time. I enjoyed it, and it would of been an outstanding film if the language wasn’t so extreme and the blood wasn’t so funny. I’d watch it again. One last thing, the bloodiest part in the film was put into black and white.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3]
—W.S.B., age 13
Movie Critics
…Blood/Gore: Extreme | Profanity: Extreme | Sex/Nudity: Heavy…
—ScreenIt
…Extreme acts of violence and otherwise horrific decapitations are made to seem commonplace and comical…
—Shaun Daugherty, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…“Pulp Fiction” has been widely regarded as commercial filmdom’s most stylistically-senselessly-violent movie (possibly vying for top honors with Natural Born Killers). It set the standard for brutality and blood lust. …“Kill Bill: Vol. 1” makes “Pulp Fiction” look like a Disney flick…
—Steven Isaac, Plugged In
…Abhorrent …Buddhist and other eastern religions espoused …hate-driven revenge …violence is extremely excessive with …heads and limbs flying, numerous shots of violently spurting blood, eyeballs exploding, hatchets in heads, …rape…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…nonstop action and a river of carnage…
—Gerry Shamray, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland
…This is, without question, the bloodiest, goriest, most violent film I’ve ever forced myself to watch.
—Michael Elliott, Movie Parables