Kill Bill Volume 1 & 2: An Artful Bloodbath

Written by Mary K. Williams

Back during the filming of Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman cooked up a story about a Bride who goes on revenge spree against her former co-workers. The result of that doodling and daydreaming became a four hour long flick called Kill Bill.

Played by Uma Thurman, The Bride (whose name is later revealed as Beatrix Kiddo), used to be an assassin, and worked with a group called the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad. Their boss, Bill (David Carradine), was her former lover. But at the beginning of the story, Beatrix is shown, bloodied and beaten, laying in her wedding dress, listening to an off-screen Bill asking her if she finds him sadistic. The Bride is so wounded, she can only blurt out, “Bill, it’s your baby!” before he sends her into a prolonged coma with a gunshot to her head.

After four years she wakes up from the coma, realizing that she is no longer pregnant. Despite the previous injuries, her memory is intact as well has her fighting skills. The Bride sets out for revenge on the group that tried to kill her.

The story is highlighted by a great deal of fighting action, as The Bride makes her way from El Paso to Okinawa, Tokyo to Pasadena, and a few other stops before the final showdown with Bill in Mexico. Throughout the films, the action includes gun shots, and an angry snake but the most interesting scenes are filled with martial arts hand-to-hand combat and beautiful swordplay.

Besides the visual treats, a hallmark of a Tarantino film is the carefully thought-out and often extensive dialogue. At first glance QT’s filmography shows a nice blend of intellectual discourse and kick-ass action. But on a deeper level, we see that the lengthy verbal intercourse is merely foreplay – or foreshadowing – of the physical dance yet to come. And I don’t mean lovin’. Especially in the dialogue between Bill and The Bride, the seemingly innocuous chit-chat gives a sense of unease. It all sounds average, maybe even nice, but what does it really herald?

The Bride: You know, five years ago, if I had to make a list of impossible things that would never happen, you performing a coup de grace on me, by busting a cap in my crown, would have been right at the top of the list. But I’d be wrong, wouldn’t I?

Bill: [slightly drunk] … I’m sorry, was that a question? Of impossible things that could never happen, in this case, yes, you would have been wrong.

The Bride: Well?

Bill: When you didn’t come back, I naturally assumed that Lisa Wong or somebody else had killed you. Oh, and for the record, letting someone think that someone they love is dead when they’re not is quite cruel. I mourned you for three months. And in the third month of mourning you, I tracked you down. Now, I wasn’t trying to track you down. I was trying to track down the fucking assholes who I thought killed you. So, I find you. And what do I find? Not only are you not dead, you’re getting married, to some fucking jerk, and you’re pregnant. I… overreacted.

[long pause]

The Bride: You overreacted?”

Also, the dialogue often reveals the most interesting bits that support the action. With a bucket of blood red, QT paints his heroine as some sort of mythical character. Beatrix, the bride, is supposed to be the world’s deadliest assassin. But she also takes a huge, huge amount of abuse, surviving a close-range head shot, being buried alive, fighting an army of O-Ren’s protectors, not to mention combat with each member of the Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, and she lives. Again and again. Even though it’s understood that the audience must suspend belief, anyone would wonder, how the fuck does she keep ticking?

In the final scenes, while waiting for a Truth Serum dart in Beatrix’s leg to take effect, Bill extolls the virtue of the comic book, Superman. What he says is quite lovely, but what’s key is his analogy between The Man of Steel, and his Beatrix.

“Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us… You would’ve worn the costume of Arlene Plimpton [the assumed name The Bride was using for her new life with Tommy Plimpton]. But you were born Beatrix Kiddo. And every morning when you woke up, you’d still be Beatrix Kiddo.”

Split into two separate films, volumes 1 and 2, Kill Bill is filled with interesting film techniques, shots with unusual angles, an anime sequence, and scenes purposefully woven out of sequence. (QT is not the only one who ever stepped outside the box, remember a dude named George Lucas? He earned a few shekels beginning a gorgeous epic story at Episode IV.)

But does all Tarantino’s techniques, all the “homaging”, does it get too cutesy, does he jump the shark? (Or Nuke the Fridge?) Absolutely, he jumps, spills coffee on, slices with Japanese Steel, and spits tobacco juice all over the damn thing. But he does it with precision and panache.

Kill Bill also stars Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Julie Dreyfus, Michael Parks, Sonny Chiba, Michael Madsen, and Daryl Hannah.

Cinema Sentries

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