This post begins a celebration of Tarantino’s 50th birthday. From the 27th through to the 29th there will be a series of guest posts; both reviewing his work, but also taking a look at a few films which he himself rates highly. First up is a Kill Bill review by Joey Corpora, I would like to thank him for contributing such a great review and under a rather limited time restraint. Please take the time to check out his blog here and his website Platypus Underground here. You can also follow him on twitter – @joeycorpora.
Kill Bill is Tarantino’s ode to old school martial arts films, and it hits the mark spectacularly. The references in the film are too numerous to count; after the film opens with the classic Shaw Brothers logo, we are bombarded with nods to everything from Chinese chop-sockey flicks to gory Japanese samurai films.
The Bride, played by Uma Thurman, dons the yellow striped suit from Bruce Lee’s Game of Death; Sony Chiba reprises his role of Hattori Hanzo from the 1980’s TV series Shadow Warriors; Gordon Liu fights as the leader of the Crazy 88s (it is interesting to note that he plays the role of Pai Mei in Kill Bill Vol. 2, a character he fought and killed in the Shaw Brother’s classic Fist of the White Lotus), and even good old Kwai Chang Caine himself, David Carradine, makes an appearance as the titular villain, Bill.
The film, in true Tarantino fashion, is non-linear. Instead of playing out chronologically, the film is broken up into five “chapters,” jumping back and forth in time. The story follows “the Bride,” a woman who once belonged to a team of assassins until she was betrayed. Now she’s out for revenge. She has a hit list of five names, and while we are introduced to all the villains (victims?) in Vol. 1, she only manages to cross two names off her list by the end of the film.
Tarantino’s style is on point; everything from set design to cinematography is absolutely beautiful. Much of the film is shot like a samurai movie, complete with dramatic stare-downs and close-ups of running feet. There is even a section of the film that is represented in an anime style cartoon, depicting the back-story of O-Ren Ishii, a member of the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad. While it may have been jarring to cut from live action to animation in any other film, Tarantino manages to pull it off flawlessly.
One odd point about the film is that the main character’s name is never revealed. There is a weird “boop” sound whenever anyone says her name, and while this may be a reference to something else, I didn’t understand it and found it rather distracting and unnecessary. It is even more annoying because we can clearly hear enough of the name to know they are saying “Beatrix.” Oh, well…
The main draw of the film, of course, is the action. The fight scenes are choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, and while some are better than others, they are overall extremely entertaining.
The biggest issue with the fight scenes is that the main actors are clearly not trained martial artists. This is made very clear in the opening fight scene, which is shot Jason Bourne style to hide the poor technique: lots of close ups and very fast, confusing cutting. It is unfortunate that the film opens with this fight, because the battle royale near the end with the Crazy 88s is really awesome.
Despite the actors’ lack of training, Tarantino manages to make up for this by playing to his strengths: the sound design, cinematography, and editing are so good that you can almost always understand what is going on, so the crazy cutting usually isn’t too much of an issue.
The highlight of the film is obviously the giant battle between the Bride and the Crazy 88s. The sound effects are awesome, the blood spray is even more awesome, and the choreography is excellent. Tarantino continues to play with style, as at one point a guy gets his eye ripped out, and from then on the fight turns black and white, which was really cool. The wire work is also very well done, giving just enough of a boost to make the actions almost believable, but not going over the top by making people fly around Crouching Tiger style.
One of my personal favourite parts of the film is the final battle between the Bride and O-Ren. It is filmed in a location reminiscent of the final fight in The Chinese Connection, complete with the wooden water thing clunking around during the action. The entire scene beautifully shot; the colours really pop, and the snow is falling peacefully while the two characters do their dance of death.
The film ends as a cliff-hanger, which is to be picked up in Vol. 2, where the Bride will continue her quest for revenge.
Overall, Kill Bill is a very impressive film by Tarantino, certainly worth watching more than once.