- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ix torturous years have passed since Quentin Tarantino's last film (the criminally underrated “Jackie Brown”), but with the release of "Kill Bill: Volume One," the wait is finally over. The first of a two-part series, “Kill Bill” is Tarantino’s homage to his favorite films – from Hong Kong martial arts flicks and Japanese samurai movies to Italian spaghetti westerns – and it’s some of his best work to date. A hysterical and bloody powerhouse stamped with the director’s trademark ability to make recycled material look fresh and innovative, “Kill Bill: Volume One” is one of the best films of the year, and, when it's all said and done, probably the decade.
Four years after a wedding day massacre, The Bride (Uma Thurman) has awakened from a coma as the only surviving member – no thanks to her former colleagues, the other members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, who were ordered by their boss Bill (David Carradine) to kill her for skipping town. Following her miraculous recovery, The Bride sets off on a mission to exact revenge on the people responsible for putting a bullet in her head, and the first names on her list are Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), the Chinese-Japanese leader of the Yakuza. Before she gets started, however, The Bride must first head to Tokyo to acquire a weapon from the great Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba), a legendary sword smith who has since retired.
It’s easier said than done, and by the time she finally does arrive on O-Ren’s doorstep, The Bride is forced to fight through wave after wave of her subordinates, including Johnny Mo (Gordon Liu) and the Crazy 88s, as well as O-Ren’s personal bodyguard, Go Go Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama of “Battle Royale” fame). The entire brawl lasts for about 30 minutes, creating one of the bloodiest action sequences in American cinema. In fact, the scene is so outrageously violent that Tarantino was forced to make a stylistic change to the North American cut in order to retain the film’s R rating. So, instead of seeing every bloody death in glorious color, the audience must settle for black and white. Surprisingly, it actually looks better in monochrome, and it only makes the film even more unique than it already is.
“Kill Bill: Volume One” doesn't have a whole lot of story amidst all the blood-soaked action, but that’s its main intention – a quality that should drastically change come "Volume Two." It is a revenge tale after all, so while there's still plenty of Tarantino's trademark dialogue sandwiched in between, the action comes first. As for the acting, well, it’s somewhat difficult to comment on since there’s so little of it going on, but Uma Thurman was clearly born to play The Bride. Lucy Liu’s O-Ren, meanwhile, is one of the most memorable villains of the last ten years. It’s not very often you see a ruthless Yakuza boss with a Hello Kitty charm hanging from their sword, but it’s exactly these kind of details that make Tarantino’s movies such a joy to watch. The addition of an anime flashback sequence centered on O-Ren also adds a little spice to the picture, while the sensational fight scenes demonstrates exactly why Tarantino is one of the best directors in the business. “Kill Bill” is unlike anything most American audiences have ever seen before, but chances are, you’ll love every blood-dripping, limb-chopping, and adrenaline-pumping minute of it.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Getting “Kill Bill: Volume One” in HD is great and all, but Disney could have done a better job of making the Blu-ray release a little more worthwhile. The only extras that appear on the disc – a 22-minute making-of featurette and bonus musical performances by the 5, 6, 7, 8’s – are the same that were included on the original DVD. Most people will likely just continue to wait for the forthcoming “The Whole Bloody Affair” to be released, but if you can't wait any longer, at least be sure you have the hardware necessary to make the most of the film's upgraded tech specs.