“Kill Bill Vol. 1” Shows an Apprentice’s Skills

By Zac Baker

kill-bill-2003It is always really frustrating when a younger sibling or a master’s apprentice shows up and ends up being much more talented at any given skill than the older, wiser counterpart. No one likes to have their thunder stolen from them, and it only adds insult to injury when the elder party is completely responsible for everything the younger one knows.

Enter “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” by Quentin Tarantino, a kung fu parody from 2003 that made a mockery of old, serious kung fu movies and received much more attention and acclaim than the originals that inspired the spoof. It is textbook youngest-child behavior.

And while a lot of youngest children can walk the walk and talk the talk to garner the attention, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” really does not have the sickening ability of a prodigy child to earn its 85 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film follows Uma Thurman, an assassin named Black Mamba who seeks revenge for the killing of her whole wedding party and unborn child at her wedding rehearsal. Bill, the leader of a ring of trained killers, had thought her dead at the end of the attack. She was merely comatose, and began her vendetta against him and his associates when she woke up after four years in a hospital bed.

The cast is actually a list of quite accomplished actors: Uma Thurman as the protagonist, Lucy Liu, Darryl Hannah and Vivica Fox to name a few. My issue with “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” is not a matter of the talent of the people on the screen as much as it is a question of taste regarding the visual elements of the story.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect an R-rated movie chronicling the violent quest of an assassin to be as clean and bloodless as a fight scene from a Disney flick. However, the extent of the violence and gore was beyond excessive. Even in a parody film, where the whole point of the project is hyperbole and sarcasm, the hopelessly bloody weapons and endless amounts of broken glass were laughable and tiring after the first 30 minutes.

It is so laughable (and disgusting, really) that I could not make it through half of the movie. I watched 45 of the 111 minutes and knew that I had seen enough fighting, flipping and stabbing to not bother with the rest of the film.

There were a few moments of brief humanity that were a welcomed relief from the vulgarity-laden trash talk and dirty brawls. Thurman’s anguish when she woke up from the coma and knew she has lost her baby, and her decency to avoid killing someone in the presence of their child were refreshing instances of heart. It was unfortunate to not see more of that throughout the story.

A few subtle artistic choices in the opening sequences were also really thoughtful and beautiful. The eerie lyrics of a song that plays through an early scene with the recurring words “bang, bang” in the chorus were an ominous but appropriate foreshadowing of what was to come. A silhouette of Thurman’s profile as she lay on the floor after her botched assassination was also a visually stunning, albeit slightly morbid, departure from the rest of the cinematography of the movie.

Kung fu flicks will always have a certain following, and that is okay. But the acclaim that “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” has amassed since it hit theaters 11 years ago is unwarranted. It is not the child prodigy that resulted from the seasoned genre of kung fu movies. Instead it became a cheap copy and ended up being a tasteless bloodbath that was hard to watch. 

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