Quentin Tarantino’s love of movies is exceeded only by his love of violence. “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” is a tribute to both his true loves, wedded together in an indulgent, outlandish, and thoroughly entertaining ballet of blood.
Inspired by, and following in the tradition of, the martial arts B movies of the 1970s, “Kill Bill” is about revenge. One could say it “examines” the subject, but it would be more accurate to say it throws the subject up in the air and shoots at it while turning pirouettes. Where Tarantino’s previous films, especially “Pulp Fiction,” were about intriguing stories, this one is all about style, not substance.
But, oh! What style! Tarantino lets the blood gush forth so freely that it’s hard to look at it as any more appalling than a cartoon. The fighting is exquisitely choreographed and expertly shot, and the plotlines are juicy and familiar to anyone who ever spent a Saturday afternoon watching an old, badly dubbed kung fu flick on a local TV station.
The story is of a woman known only as The Bride (Uma Thurman) who awakens after a four-year coma and sets off to hunt down the people who put her there. She was part of a team called the Deadly Viper Assassination squad, led by the titular Bill (David Carradine); for reasons we are not immediately given, her teammates shot her — and her unborn baby — on her wedding day. And so The Bride carefully tracks down each perpetrator to exact her revenge.
There’s Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) who is now a stay-at-home mom in suburbia. There’s Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), a one-eyed blonde who sought to finish The Bride off while she was comatose, only to be dissuaded by Bill, who considered such an act cowardly. And there’s O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), leader of the Japanese yakuza and flanked by enough bodyguards and assassins to take care of one vengeful would-be victim (or so you’d think).
What makes it all better than a retread of old movie styles ought to be is Tarantino’s uniquely enthusiastic creative vision. His wit and pop-cultural genius are in ample evidence, and his knack for storytelling — even when storytelling is of secondary importance — is clear. He knows his way around a good line of dialogue. He knows when to use music, and when to let the soundtrack remain silent. He knows when to jump around in time, and when to tell a story linearly. He knows when to insert an anime sequence giving a character’s backstory, and when that anime sequence should contain young girls murdering men with samurai swords. (Answer: always.) In short, he knows how to slap together a damn enjoyable chunk of bombast.
Uma Thurman is a radiant beauty, and a force to be reckoned with as she wades through the labyrinth of this film, dishing out and taking in large helpings of physical abuse. She and her co-stars constitute a bevy of butt-kicking poster children for grrl power, and if “Kill Bill” doesn’t actually do anything for the feminist movement, it certainly tricks you into having a good time while it pretends to.
A (1 hr., 51 min.; )