Review: Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003)

I was always going to score this film a 10. This is also the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. Not, mind you, because Kill Bill failed to meet my 10-out-of-10 expectations — quite the opposite in fact. Tarantino has made a film that is far better than anything I could have (and did) imagine, and the highest compliment that I can pay his work here is that I had to watch it a second time right away. Unfortunately I saw it at a press screening, so I couldn’t, and — this is where the difficulty lies — as a result I really don’t feel I can write a review that does the film justice. In its entire 111 minute running time not once did Kill Bill slow down enough for me to think, really think, about what I was seeing. I know it’s brilliant. I know that there are many, many amazing moments in the film. They just come so thick and fast I can’t remember them all.

Rather than write a ‘proper’ review then, I’m instead going to share three little things that, as fellow devotees of ‘Asian’ cinema, might help you recognise just how super-cool Kill Bill truly is. Here goes…

Firstly, there’s a reason why H-C has decided to cover Kill Bill, and that’s because the film draws heavily on Hong Kong and Japanese (generic) traditions of filmmmaking. It’s more than that — having actually seen the film I can now say that it actually locates itself very specifically within the cultural contexts of those traditions too. (Volume One of the film largely orients itself around Japan, while Volume Two — out in February — has a lot more fu.) Yes, The Bride be might be a “silly Caucasian girl,” but she hasn’t been taught to fight by a computer programme. She knows what it means to carry Japanese steel, and what it means to use it. The climactic showdown at the House of Blue Leaves is one of the most incredible fight sequences I’ve ever seen, mostly because each one of its constituent elements works together so magnificently. Yuen Woo Ping and Sonny Chiba’s choreography/instruction, Robert Richardson’s cinematography, Uma Thurman’s performances and, of course, Tarantino’s direction, combine to create something as near to perfect as can be. The music. The production design. The editing. Incredible stuff.

Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire) that serves to tell the story of Lucy Liu’s character O-Ren Ishii. It is beautiful work that stands alone as one of the best things I’ve seen in a cinema all year and is reason enough to see Kill Bill even if anime doesn’t usually do it for you.

Finally, Sonny Chiba and Gordon Liu both play fairly significant roles in the film and, as might be expected, they’re really, REALLY cool.

Ultimately though, Kill Bill is much more than the some of these (and many other) parts. It’s just… brilliant. Simple as that. See it.

10 what-else-were-you-expecting?'s out of 10.
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