“Kill Bill Vol. 1:” Oh Spare Me, Please!

By Callie Kittredge

kill-bill-2003After finishing “Kill Bill Volume 1” directed by Quentin Tarantio, I am at a loss. You either hate it or you love it, and I happen to be the former. Being a “Kill Bill” virgin until now, I didn’t really know what to expect except for ruthless violence as seen in his other films such as cult classics “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs.”

The film follows nameless bride Uma Thurman and the revenge she seeks on both her ex-boyfriend (Bill) and his assassin squad. After finding out she was pregnant with Bill’s child, Thurman tried to leave the squad, resulting in the murder of her family and friends — at her wedding. Thurman comes back from her four-year coma swinging samurai swords and daggers in a tight yellow jumpsuit.

Badass? Maybe. Ridiculous? Yes, definitely.

“Kill Bill Volume 1” was released in late 2003 with huge success. The film grossed around $22 million in the opening weekend. “Kill Bill Volume 2” was released in 2004. Roger Ebert, reviewing it in 2003, said, “‘Kill Bill, Volume 1’ shows Quentin Tarantino so effortlessly and brilliantly in command of his technique that he reminds me of a virtuoso violinist.”

Well, I beg to differ. To me, Tarantino’s technique was more like a bad tuba player.

My biggest issue with the film is how unbelievably cheesy it is. I understand it’s not meant to be realistic, but it’s too extreme. Every time a limb or head gets chopped off (which is far too often in “Kill Bill”), the spray of blood is comical and foolish. These scenes are trying to be serious with fierce looks and facial close-ups, but I end up not taking them seriously.

I find “Kill Bill” too much like a comic book, and maybe that’s the intention, but it doesn’t work for me. Like using Japanese animation in one killing scene. I felt like it didn’t fit the premise of the film. The soundtrack accompanies the scenes nicely; they’re both so over the top. For example, every time Thurman sees someone on her kill list, loud, violent chords play, like a musical bull’s-eye. Again, it just adds to the cartoonish nature  of the film. If I can’t take any scene seriously, how is this film meaningful?

In addition, “Kill Bill” moved at a glacial pace. (I still can’t believe there was a sequel. I can feel myself yawning just thinking about it). I find the numerous bloody killing scenes to be repetitive and lengthy. There was no adrenaline rush for me. Take the climactic fight at the end with O-Ren Ishii. It took like 30 minutes, and we already knew the outcome.

I don’t think you should never be bored during a fight scene, but there’s only so many original deaths one can have with a samurai sword. Not to mention, I found the dialogue to be poorly written and quite rigid. For example, Thurman as a bride said, “How did you find me?” and Bill responded with, “I’m the man.” Or when O-ren Ishii said to Thurman, “You didn’t think it was gonna be that easy, did you?” and Thurman said, “You know, for a second there, yeah, I kinda did.”  There was a lack of character development. I felt like there was nothing I could identify with. Throughout the film, I kept questioning everything. What made Thurman into a crazy murderer? How did she encounter Bill in the first place?

Vol. 2 probably has the answers. But after Vol. 1, I’m not interested in spending the time to find out.

I do appreciate the fact that Tarantino’s films are always highly anticipated events. His films are so over the top that you almost can’t wait to see what else he comes up with. Perhaps I’m biased because I’m not one for blood and guts, and I don’t know enough 70s martial arts references to appreciate “Kill Bill.”

However, I do think Tarantino’s style is unique and original. “Kill Bill” had some good aesthetics, and the cinematography was well done. There were interesting angles, such as the beginning scene when Thurman is fighting with Vernita Green with the camera above them, looking down. Also, during the end scene when everyone is just a silhouette against a blue background.

However, Tarantino’s work has always felt contrived to me, in the sense that there are too many thematic elements crammed in. For example, the two black-and-white scenes were just odd; I didn’t understand what they added to the film.

Despite what some have said about the brilliance of “Kill Bill,” I couldn’t get into it. I suppose, it’s worth a watch if you’re into corny martial arts, ketchupy blood-splatter on the camera lens, without plot development. 

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