VOD film review: Kill Bill Volume 1
James R | On 16, Jun 2018
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen
Watch Kill Bill Vol 1 online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The debate over which Tarantino movie is the director’s best is one that will never reach a consensus, something that Quentin himself almost ensured by splitting his most outrageous picture into two halves: Kill Bill Vol 1 and Kill Bill Vol 2. Years after its 2003 debut, the first half of his vengeful epic raises a whole new set of questions, while still carving out an entertaining niche within Tarantino’s work that stands up on its own.
The movie follows The Bride (Uma Thurman), an assassin who is gunned down by her former colleagues on her wedding day, at the behest of her ex-lover and boss, Bill (David Carradine). Waking up from a coma four years later, she fights to get even with every single person responsible. It’s a familiar tale, but one that’s delivered with a self-aware simplicity: we see The Bride literally write down a hit list of targets and watch her tick each one off in a row, complete with numbered chapter headings. And yet, for all that straight forward B-movie propulsion, Kill Bill is also one of Tarantino’s most complex productions.
The film is a blend of genres, influences and tones, all served up with impeccably bad taste. Even with Vol 2 separated out as a Western-tinged counterpart, Vol 1’s Samurai sword swinging epic is hard to pin down, working as a love letter from Tarantino to every video cassette he saw when younger. Dialogue ranges from French and English to Mandarinm, while the music jumps from Bernard Herrmann to the theme tune for Ironside. In one of the boldest departures of Tarantino’s career, one sequence (the backstory for Lucy Liu’s Oren Ishii) is even a straight-out anime.
But where Tarantino’s habit of borrowing from any culture and convention – blaxploitation, martial art, grindhouse – that takes his fancy perhaps smacks of cultural appropriation, it’s an approach that is served with maximum affection: Kill Bill marks perhaps his most sensitive and respectful work in that sense, as he wisely gets Kazuto Nakazawa to direct his anime sequence, rather than try to do it himself.
But even that dazzling interlude doesn’t compare to the jaw-dropping climax, a showdown between The Bride and The Crazy 88 that could be a film in its own right and may be the best action scene Tarantino will ever direct. Gruesome practical effects, playful lighting, black-and-white cutaways and more all collide with a frenetic pace, intricate choreography and a bucket-load of fake blood. From the off, the opening fight in a living room grabs your attention with unapologetic brutality.
Since the movie’s release, a number of revelations have arisen that colour the viewing experience, not least of which is Uma’s reveal of an alleged assault by then Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein. She has also revealed that she sustained injuries from filming due to a car accident, as a result of Tarantino insisting she do her own stunts, but said that the pair have since made peace and she has forgiven him. While the movie is clearly written and directed by a man, though, it is satisfying to see Uma credited as a co-creator of her character, The Bride. If anyone deserves a rip-roaring rampage of revenge, it’s her. The result is a thrilling ride that hasn’t lost the sheer rush of seeing a filmmaker going full pelt. It may not be the best Tarantino film, but it is certainly the most Tarantino Tarantino film.
Kill Bill Vol 1 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.