Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

With the release of the Kill Bill series, Tarantino takes a drastic shift from his previous films which focused on realism of characters and their emotions to a film that is highly stylized in both content and form. Regardless, Tarantino still succeeds, showing us that he is a highly dynamic director. I really love how he will make certain films to pay homage to a genre that isn’t necessarily still around, like he did with Jackie Brown, and now with Kill Bill in regards to 70’s martial arts films. And he does this all while staying true to his personal style as a director.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is the first installment in a two-part series that centers around the quest of our leading character, referred to as The Bride (Uma Thurman), to exact revenge on her ex-colleagues. She previously belonged to a group called the Deadly Viper Association, which is made up of highly skilled assassins, including Bill (David Carradine). The Bride is looking for revenge after they murder her family and friends at her wedding ceremony and attempt to kill her as well, along with her unborn child. She wakes up from a four year coma after the terrible event and sets to work.

There really isn’t anything super mind boggling about the story. That is just what it is; a story. It is laid out plainly and obviously, a woman getting revenge. But the movie isn’t supposed to be about a complex story. It is meant to showcase style…and it does. Tarantino knows everything about this film is ridiculous, and he loves every minute of it. From gallons and gallons of spurting blood to highly dramatized action sequences, this is a movie that is self-aware that it is a movie and if you don’t realize that, you may be mistaken that it is just a cheesy reference to classic Bruce Lee films.

The acting is definitely there and there is really no other woman for The Bride than Uma Thurman. In fact, Tarantino and Thurman were the ones that came up with the character when they were on the set of Pulp Fiction together. Really all the cast has to do though is act serious in situations they know are completely outrageous and they do that just wonderfully.

Tarantino just loves using high-angle shots, especially from trunks of cars as seen here.

I have to say my favorite scene of the movie was one of Tarantino’s trademark long shots. The one where Thurman enters The House of Blue Leaves in order to kill O-Ren. We witness her go down the stairs, around the room, into the ladies room where we then exit the ladies room, go back to the stairs and begin to follow Sofia Fatale into the ladies room as well. It was a really magnificent shot that was just perfectly timed. Tarantino also gets pretty adventurous and chooses to show a whole action sequence in which we learn of O-Ren’s past in anime. Whether this is in reverence of Japanese culture or just because the scene would be too brutal to see in reality, it somehow fit just fine into the movie’s tone which is an impressive feat to me, I don’t know many movies that can suddenly do that still maintain flow.

It’a hard to choose if I like the highly stylized Tarantino films more or less than his earlier films. They are two different kinds of beasts and I can appreciate them both. I think it’s a truly impressive feat though that a director can accomplish such different forms of filmmaking and for that I really admire Tarantino. Kill Bill is an excellent start to many future movies that will blend harsh realities with fantasy. However, I still have one more installment of Kill Bill to go and it will be interesting to see if there are any significant differences or if I will like one more than the other. 

Another popular high-angle shot he likes to use, from the point of view of someone who has just been killed, or in this case, almost killed.

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