The Bride of Tarantino
When "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" was released in 2003 I chose not to watch it, not because I had anything against director Quentin Tarantino or thought it would be crap but because it was only half a movie. Now you may say that a lot of movies do this you get part 1 and then a while later you get part 2 and yes that would be right but in most cases each part is a complete movie in it's own right with a beginning, middle and end, where as "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" isn't. The truth is that "Kill Bill" was made as one movie, one very long movie, and those with the power decided that was to risky and so took a samurai sword and slashed it in half, making it into two movies. Except this means that the first movie doesn't have a start middle and end, it has a start and half a middle and no matter how quirky that is it is just wrong. Don't get me wrong as "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" is very entertaining but it is spoilt by being incomplete.
Once upon a time "The Bride" was part of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a group of highly trained killers lead by Bill, her lover. But when she discovered she was pregnant "The Bride" fled, looking to start a new life so her child can grow up innocent. But having met a new man who she is about to marry, "The Bride" is gunned down by the other members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, sent by a jealous Bill. Years later, having been in a coma, The Bride awakens and discovering her baby gone sets out on a vendetta to kill those who ruined her life and killed her baby.
Now you have to say that Quentin Tarantino is probably the coolest movie geek out there because this is a man who knows movies, he probably knows more about movies than many people who get paid to watch them for a living. And what that means is that when Tarantino makes a movie it will stylishly tip it's hat at other movies and genres and that is most certainly the case with "Kill Bill: Vol. 1". Here we have a simple revenge storyline, yes it is simple, as we watch The Bride set out to kill those who almost killed her. But then Tarantino basically jazzes it up by chopping up the narrative so one minute you are watching The Bride go after one of her assassins, the next we witness her attempted murder, then her recovery in hospital and so on. In some director's hands this mixing up of the narrative could have been a disaster but Tarantino makes it work, he makes it easy enough to follow and by doing this you have these separate stories going on, working in tandem.
Tarantino's use of style also helps to delimit these stories and "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" is one very stylish movie. There is something intentionally old fashioned about it and I don't just mean the use of black and white footage at some points. Tarantino manages to make it feel a bit like and old 50s thriller yet at the same time also makes it feel like a 70s martial arts movie. But where as it could have felt like one quirky experiment of a mad director Tarantino manages to make all the different styles work, to come together to create an entertaining experience.
Now within all this style there is also a lot of action and Tarantino most certainly shows his love and knowledge of martial arts movies. There is scene after scene of action which feels like it has been cherry picked from some old martial arts movies, but not in the sense of being a copy but in the sense of the style. Watching The Bride fight any of her assassins is just brilliant, snappy, quick, visually stunning especially the big fight where she takes on O-Ren Ishii's guards the "Crazy 88" and her own body guard Gogo Yubari. This is action done brilliantly because whilst it is violent it is also about the beauty of it, the movement and the choreography.
And whilst Tarantino's styling helps to elevate this revenge story into being something special the casting takes it another step. Now there is a lot of talent in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" from Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii and Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver through to the likes of Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari and Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo to name but a few. But it is Uma Thurman as The Bride who leads things and does so magnificently creating a character who is a touch mysterious, a touch amusing and someone you really don't want to mess with. Between Thurman's performance and the writing of the character it just works and makes us want to follow her as she tries to get revenge yet at the same time we are just as equally fascinated by what happened to her and why.
But here is the thing and it is my sticking point as "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" is half a movie, it is incomplete thanks to those bosses who decided they could get away with slicing a bigger movie down the middle. And whilst now you may be able to watch both volumes together, one after the other it still doesn't hide the fact that the cutting in half spoilt it and is the one major fault.
What this all boils down to is that "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" is a very good movie and could have been exceptional but for that one sticking point. Leaving that behind what you have is a simple story, an unoriginal theme of revenge but turned into something so much more by a director who obviously has a passion for movies, not just making them but watching them. And it is because Quentin Tarantino is one of the coolest movie geeks going he has created a movie which is not only his homage to some favourite genres but also one which the public will get, will enjoy and be entertained by.