Kill Bill: Volume 1

Kill Bill: Volume 1

*1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The enfant terrible has disappeared up his own waste disposal unit. Quentin Tarantino's fourth film is the most self-indulgent, gratuitous, blood-soaked barrage of banality in the history of B-picture pastiche.

Who cares that every camera angle is a copy of something so-and-so did in a Hong Kong kung-fu flick 30 years ago? Film geeks will squirm with satisfaction as they spot yet another cinematic reference. The story, meanwhile, dies in agony before your eyes. What remains is not a live one, but a comic book video nasty, stretched across the wide screen. Any resemblance to reality is purely accidental.

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Tarantino's undisputed talent, through Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, is his ability to write memorable dialogue. Even that is wasted here. The one-liners wait to be whacked, rather than hitting below the belt like they used to. Also, much of it is in Japanese, which loses something in the subtitles.

The plot is either a simplistic revenge scenario, in which The Bride (Uma Thurman) has a death list, or the whole thing is an excuse to watch a tall blonde tomboyish actress kick butt and wield a sharp weapon. Despite flashbacking and fast forwarding, the storyline is so tangled it encourages speculation.

You have no idea why this woman is killing people, or who she is for that matter. In the opening scene, she is photographed close up in trendy monochrome, her face battered and bloody, pleading with an unseen assailant, called Bill, for her life. He shoots her, anyway.

It is possible, through subsequent memory leaps, to piece together what might have happened - a massacre at a Texan wedding ceremony, The Bride in a coma for four years, followed by her systematic hunt for members of The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and their violent demise, ending, one assumes, in Vol 2, with bye-bye-Bill. Who, you may ask, are the DIVAS and how is The Bride involved with them?

The set piece in Vol 1 is The Bride's confrontation with O'Ren-Ishii (Lucy Liu) in Tokyo. She takes on a roomful of dark-suited gangsters single handed with only a samurai sword. If it weren't so repulsive - blood gushes from every orifice - it would be ludicrous. There are only so many ways to slice off a limb.

Tarantino's conceit is without parallel, or end. There are three more names on the death list. Watching them die in Vol 2 is not going to be fun.

Kill Bill is like a car crash. It's better to drive on past.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2003
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Martial arts revenge extravaganza.
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Jennie Kermode ***1/2

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Kill Bill: Volume 2