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"Kill Bill--Volume I"

Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Written by Quentin Tarantino.  Partially based on the film "The Bride."
Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox and Daryl Hannah. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/23/03


Been excited for this one for six months, and I’m happy to report that “Kill Bill” least, for this first installment.

I had read on one of those movie news websites that Miramax had come down on Quentin Tarantino—film artiste—for delivering “Kill Bill” at a shade over three hours long.  According to the report I read, the Weinsteins (who run Miramax) did not want to release an action film that clocked in at such a long running time.  Tarantino, citing the fact that “Pulp Fiction” essentially cemented the studio back in 1994 (ahh, ego), refused to cut the, to compromise, the film was cut in half, and Miramax decided to release the first half of the film in 2003 with the sequel to come sometime early next year.  This way, it would still be up for Oscar consideration, and at the end of the year, Miramax could still release a version of the film that had all three hours intact if the long version was that good.

As a result, we now have the chance to see the first half of the film, and “Volume I” is quite a ride, especially if you like your flicks like your steak:  bloody!!  A woman known as The Bride (Uma Thurman) gets shot in the head when the film opens by some guy named Bill (David Carradine), but thanks to some pretty impressive luck, she doesn’t die, so after coming out of a coma four years later, she goes after Bill and his four lieutenants all over the world.  In “Volume I”, we have time to meet The Bride, get some backstory on her situation, and then watch her go after Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox) and Cottonmouth (Lucy Liu).  You know what’s going to happen, since without The Bride, there is no movie, so it’s all up to Tarantino’s execution, and execute it he does...magnificently.

A mix of just about everything, “Kill Bill” is mostly a project that pays reverence to Tarantino’s long-standing interest in martial arts films, and he gets so many of the little touches right it makes you want to cry.  From the sound effects to the TV-style opening of the film, from another kitschy 70s soundtrack to over-the-top bloody decapitations, it sure feels like a Japanese flick, especially in the film’s ramped-up final 60 minutes, as The Bride goes to Okinawa to train before going to Tokyo to take out Cottonmouth.  The action is intense, the bodybags get filled, and the production looks beautiful; the budget for this film has got to be as big as all three of Tarantino’s other films COMBINED.  All this plus a 10-minute animated sequence on Cottonmouth’s childhood make for a pretty wild theater experience.  It’s also interesting to see a film that has so few pop references after his three previous films loaded up on them; this film is much quieter than his other ones, a more mature effort that sticks to filmmaking, not dialogue, to carry the day.

Personally, I would have sat through a three-hour action film, so the decision to release this film in two parts rubs me wrong in a half-dozen different ways; the biggest of these is that I felt a little cheated that Miramax is trying to make me pay double for a film that wasn’t meant to be broken in half.  Also, since this is the half that Miramax wanted to submit for Oscar voters, one wonders if the original intention was to have the film laid out this way; action-wise, I feel like the other two lieutenants (played by Michael Madsen—who has NO scenes in “Volume I”—and Darryl Hannah) won’t be as interesting to watch die as these two were, but we do get to see what happens with Bill.  Finally, I never really got connected with The Bride; the reasons why she is nearly killed by Bill are not revealed at all in this film, which left me just watching the action, not caring whether or not she survived it all.

But, this is strong work by Tarantino; decidedly better than “Jackie Brown”, it looks like the director is back to form.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09