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Kill Bill: Vol. 1

August 13, 2019

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Actors: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox

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Synopsis: The Bride (Uma Thurman) awakens from a four year-long coma that came about after being brutally assaulted by her ex-boss, Bill, and his group of deadly assassins. She sets about gaining her revenge on the five members of this Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, starting with O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).

Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 marked, in many respects, the last time that Quentin Tarantino made a tighter, more disciplined film, and it’s all the better for that; it’s certainly stronger than the languorous and baggy Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

All the playfulness and ingenuity that showcases Tarantino at his best is on display here. There’s the continual jumbling of chronology (marked by evocative chapter markers) and the familiar Tarantino theme of contingency is present throughout – probably the best example being how Uma Thurman’s ‘The Bride’ has to somehow drive without the use of legs, as, obviously, it would take some time for her limbs to work having been previously comatose for four years.

The opening scene with Vivica A. Fox’s assassin is a real highlight; not just of this film but the entire Kill Bill diptych. It’s not The Bride’s first revenge attack in the chronological story-world, but it is nigh-on the first sequence of the first film, and it cleverly juxtaposes the brutality and skill of the assassins’ violence with this film’s female-centred slant on that. In fact, there’s a circularity to the pathos of Fox’s character’s soon-to-be orphaned daughter and the climactic scene of the second film where The Bride is finally reunited with her long-lost daughter, although under the villainous watch of Bill himself.

Tarantino’s cinephilic indulgences are more permissible in this first film, than the second. The shift to a Yakuza genre for the Japanese section is great fun. The manga montage that documents the origin of Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Rishii is a brilliant touch, and the long yakuza fight that acts as climax to the film is superbly realised through various cinematographic flourishes: black and white photography, use of a nightlight silhouette, and the chromatic use of colour as the yellow-clad Bride cuts a brutal, bloody red swathe through her would-be assassins. (August 2019)

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