Kill Bill is the fourth film from writer and director Quentin Tarantino. Faced with trying to edit a huge amount of footage Tarantino took the unusual decision to release the movie in two parts. Kill Bill Vol.1 is a fast-paced, slick, action homage to martial arts and more particularly to gory samurai films.
Uma Thurman stars as the heroine of the piece, a desperately wronged woman who has had her life destroyed by Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. She embarks on a vicious revenge rampage, determined to kill everyone involved in the incident which landed her in a coma and caused her to lose her fiance and baby.
The film is explosive action all the way, 106 minutes of stylish death. The plot is entirely borrowed from eastern films (most notably Thurman's character, the Bride) and mashed together into a sword fighting epic for a western audience. This is highly reminiscent of Manga as well and even includes a Manga-esque sequence which tells the story of Lucy Liu's character O-Ren Ishii.
Uma Thurman wakes up in a hospital bed, in less than pleasant circumstances, and immediately begins to kill people. She escapes and sets out to find the Viper Squad and Bill so that she can have her revenge. Her story is told via flashbacks in typical Tarantino style with no obvious rhyme or reason.
Vernita Green (Vivicia A Fox) is the first on the list and we are treated to an excellent fight sequence which is interrupted by Vernita's young daughter. We see Tarantino's quirky sense of humour here as the two stop fighting in front of the child but soon get back down to business when she is out of sight. Needless to say that Uma emerges victorious. This fight sequence was very well shot and quite different in that it takes place in a typical suburban home, not your general setting for an assassin martial arts showdown.
Next on the list is O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) the most interesting character in my opinion. She witnessed her parent's murder at a young age and vowed revenge eventually claiming it years later and going on to become the Yakuza boss. The scene where one of the other Yakuza warlords dissents and O-Ren swiftly deals with his concern by decapitating him is fantastic and most memorable. O-Ren is surrounded by bodyguards, the Crazy 88, Gordon Liu and an evil teenage girl you may recognise from Battle Royale. Consequently she is no push over and the battle between her gang and Uma is one of the most spectacular and gory fight scenes ever made.
The gripping climax sees Uma and Liu fight it out with katanas in a snow covered garden. The choreography is excellent and so is the direction, this entire sequence as Uma attacks and kills the numerous gang members and then O-Ren herself is frenetic and hugely enjoyable.
Tarantino employs a variety of effects, switching between flashy quick cuts, black and white footage and as always he chooses a peculiar soundtrack which a lot of the scenes almost seem to be built around. The film really offers nothing original but the references are so numerous you can hardly keep up, as though he tried to pack the best bits from a bunch of movies into one. Uma's costume is a nod to Bruce Lee, Gordon Liu as the bodyguard is a great choice, he has starred in many martial arts films and is a superb fighter and there is a cameo from Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo the sword smith.
The cast is extremely good, other members of the Viper Squad who feature more heavily in the second film include Darryl Hannah as Elle Driver, Michael Madsen as Budd and of course David Carradine as Bill. Uma Thurman is very watchable as always but I don't think she has much of a character to develop; she is more a personification of revenge. Lucy Liu stole the show for me as the insane O-Ren and she was given the most character development of any of the stars. The other characters feel very two dimensional and this is accentuated by the comic book style storyline and sheer pace of the action.
The Bill of the title does not appear at all except as a disembodied voice and we have to wait for the second instalment to find the resolution of the story. As a standalone film I think this works quite well, it is very energetic and doesn't let up but if you like some substance to your films then it may disappoint, weighted as it is towards style. This is comic book action and it is very gory but it is also expensive looking, well-acted and beautifully shot.