Movie Review
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill 1 poster
By Jennifer Alpeche     Published October 15, 2003
US Release: October 10, 2003

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman , David Carradine , Daryl Hannah , Michael Madsen

R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content.
Running Time: 110 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $70,098,138
Simply awesome.
Revenge, blood and violence, style and grace, an homage to Japanese samurai and Chinese kung-fu cinema, a soundtrack that oozes cool, and a cast led by a strong, tough, and charismatic heroine in Uma Thurman. These are some of the elements of "Kill Bill: Volume 1," half Quentin Tarantino?s fourth film, and a wonder at that.

Fans have been waiting for over five years for Tarantino?s next effort after "Jackie Brown," and with "Kill Bill" he continues to offer stories that explore violence and the nastiness of crime, pulling the viewer into a world in which everyone kills -- with only the reason behind the killing being what separates good from bad. Violence is the foundation on which "Kill Bill" is built: the way its heroine is beaten, torn down and apart, as well as the instrument by which she exacts her revenge.

More than four years of her life stolen away, The Bride (a terrific Thurman) in "Kill Bill" has a singular purpose: to find the five people who left her for dead and make each pay, to get even, "about square." Four of them (Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Darryl Hannah, and Michael Madsen) are members of an assassination squad sent to kill The Bride on her wedding day.

The fifth is their boss (David Carradine), the "Bill" of the film?s title himself (a repulsive, wicked person whom we never actually see, but through his actions and the meeting of his minions, we know to be a man who needs to die). And so, with checklist in hand, The Bride sets out to cross each of these names off, face-to-face, making sure each knows that she was the one to finish them.

As said, the film is violent ? certainly graphic in its language, ideas, and images, but it is also aware of this, refusing to hide the fact. For instance, in the film?s first shot, it opens close-up on a woman (our heroine) who?s been severely beaten. She?s clearly scared and hurt, with no one to turn to for help. Tarantino forces the audience to see this, to get ready for what?s to come, and then goes a step further by affording her no mercy. In that opening shot, we know all that we need to know for the rest of the film, and we need to prepare ? it?s honest and up-front in what it will be.

Told in chapters, "Kill Bill" is left unfinished and half-done, and to know what happens in the end, the audience will have to return to the theater for "Volume 2" for additional chapters and the tale?s conclusion. There is an incredible tease at the end of "Volume 1" that will leave viewers buzzing, anticipating the next part of the film to see if The Bride is successful in her quest, and also whether or not she is rewarded. After all that she has suffered, she deserves much.

In addition to its incomplete story, the film also possesses a marvelous style that will likely draw audiences back. Backed by a groovy pop soundtrack, "Kill Bill" pulses right along. Its almost two-hour running time hardly seems to be, as there is always something else to absorb or piece together. Tarantino?s dialogue is great, both harsh and poetic ? it flows from English to Japanese and back, and adds touches of laughter and sorrow, of anger and wit.

As for the fight choreography, it is simply awesome. Though "Kill Bill" is almost unrelenting in its fight sequences, Tarantino makes use of black-and-white film and anime to give audiences a break, a chance to turn its eye on something new and also spare us in seeing scenes overrun by blood, overwhelmed by red.

As for the players, Uma Thurman as the Bride so rocks. Her character is not only tough and highly skilled, but also a person who respects rules, and who carries out her revenge in a way that is fair. The role is not only physical, but also emotional. We sympathize with her because of what?s been done to her, and root for her because she simply wants payback ? no more, no less.

Thurman?s character loses a great deal in this film, and anything that she can get back seems just. She is a powerful female character written with love. Others in the film are also good, including wonderful guest turns by Sonny Chiba as the reclusive master sword-maker, Hattori Hanzo, and Gordon Liu as the leader of O?Ren Ishii?s (Lucy Liu) gang, the Crazy 88?s.

"Kill Bill: Volume 1" is indeed an homage, but it is also a display of focused, stylized filmmaking -- as singular in its purpose as The Bride is in hers. It?s an absolute treat, a trip. And for me, once over, I couldn?t wait to start the next chapter to learn how it ends ? for it to be here, and to see "Volume 2."
Jennifer's Grade: A-
Jennifer's Overall Grading: 6 graded movies
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'Kill Bill 1' Articles
  • Greg's review A
    October 12, 2003    Truly a film for movie lovers such as myself. -- Greg Ward
  • Lee's review B+
    October 11, 2003    May very well go down as one of the coolest films ever made. -- Lee Tistaert
  • Gareth's review B-
    October 10, 2003    A dazzling combination of action and visuals that will delight some and frustrate others who are looking for more depth. -- Gareth Von Kallenbach