Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003)

kill bill vol 1

“For those of you lucky enough to leave with your lives, go! But leave your limbs! They belong to me!”

The Scoop: 2003 R, directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, and Darryl Hannah

Tagline: In the year 2003, Uma Thurman will kill Bill

Summary Capsule: Murdered bride miraculously recuperates just in time to open up a can of seriously vengeful, worldwide whoop ass.

Clare’s rating: Brings the term “shotgun wedding” to a whole new level.

Clare’s review: Summing up the plot to Kill Bill vol. 1 is simple. There’s this pregnant woman, whose name we never learn — she’s simply referred to as “The Bride” — who runs off to a little church in El Paso, Texas to get married. This guy named Bill and a bunch of his hired guns (ex-associates, it turns out, of The Bride) go to the church and kill everyone in it. The Bride is beaten and then shot point blank in the head, but although they leave her for dead, she does not die. Instead, after being comatosed for a number of years, she wakes up one day to find a metal plate in her head and an unending supply of vengeance in her heart.

I’ve tried multiple times now to sum up my feelings about Kill Bill in a nice, easy to understand opening paragraph that both describes the movie and also gives a good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. I generally tend to try to write reviews that allow the reader to decide based on the information at hand whether or not a movie would be up their ally. My problem with Kill Bill vol. 1 is twofold.

1) Kill Bill has become impossible for me to describe comprehensively because honestly, it’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. Which is interesting because its originality comes from the fact that it is, at its core, a big, bright, violent, homage to every movie director/writer Quentin Tarantino’s fevered brain has ever obsessed endlessly over. It’s what would happen if Tarantino somehow took all those Kung Fu movies, all those Samurai films, all those Blaxploitation flicks and all those Spaghetti Westerns he memorized scene for scene as a kid, smashed them all together in one big block and ran them through what I’ll call the Tarantino Play Dough Fun Factory of moviemaking. The end result is utterly and completely a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it is also a heart on his sleeve declaration of love to everything he ravenously adores about films and filmmaking.

2) I can’t be objective about this and I can’t really be reasonable about it either. I loved Kill Bill. I saw it twice in two days. The second time only made me want to see it again a third. So there’s no way for me to off-handedly give you a list of things you might like or might not like about Kill Bill and let you decide for yourself if it’s something you could get into. I’ve found instead that while trying to write this review I’ve gotten pulled into thinking up a seemingly endless list of things about the movie that I thought were perfect, or extraordinary, or clever or well-executed (no pun intended) or brilliantly conceived or just plain cool. So I don’t know if you’ll like this movie. All I know is that I love it enough for the two of us put together.

Kill Bill is violent. It’s graphic in its violence. And it stays graphic in its violence from the very start of the film to the very end. Sure, there are pauses here and there for sushi and motorcycle rides, but most often, the movie is littered with ravaged, bloody, beaten to a pulp dead bodies. In the sections of the film that are too violent to show in an R rated movie were they done some other way, Tarantino gets around them by using animation, black and white film (lessening the impact by making red blood black) or by back-lighting certain scenes to obscure the details of the action. I imagine that some people will find this violence to be highly offensive, distasteful and wrong. I am not one of those people.

And I’ll tell you why. It’s not because I think evisceration and decapitation are wicked cool. It’s because I gathered early on in my first viewing of Kill Bill that I was watching a masterfully-crafted live action graphic novel (again, no pun intended). When an entire section of the film is presented in anime, it seems a natural and obvious choice for telling that section of the story. (And let me go on record as saying that the animated sequence is, for sure, one of my absolute favorite parts of the film.) The characters in Kill Bill aren’t real people. They’re representations of real people. The movie isn’t about gritty realism like Reservoir Dogs was and it’s not about a bunch of intertwined stories about the same subject like Pulp Fiction was. It’s about evoking an emotional response, about making something that’s breathtaking to look at and about paying proper respect to the movies before it that Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t exist without. I’ve heard people complain that this film is all style and no substance. I would counter that by saying they’re missing the point. The style IS the substance of Kill Bill. It is within all the myriad forms of story-telling, embbeded in all the endless little set, prop and costume details and among the countless deliberate shifts in cinematography and score that Kill Bill is built.

So with that in mind, I have included a small handful of things to look for in Kill Bill under the extras section. However, this handful should in no way be considered a comprehensive list. Kill Bill is a treasure trove of detail. Every inch of it is specific and chosen and crafted to look and sound exactly the way it does. There is nothing sloppy about any of it. Cataloguing all of that in precise detail would only take away from the fun of actually digging through Kill Bill and finding them out for yourself.

Kyle’s rating: Just like Romeo and Juliet!

Kyle’s review: Recently, for the first time in many years I bought a milkshake at McDonald’s. I was about to see a play in Costa Mesa, and we were wandering through South Coast Plaza before the curtain went up. I was both thirsty and hungry, and figured a chocolate milkshake would hit the spot. Looking back, my mistake was asking for the largest size they had. Initially, it was wonderful, but then I realized there was no way I was ever going to finish the damn thing. The girl I was with did her part, but by the time we walked over the bridge to the theater I threw away a cup that was nearly 50% full. I could care less about the money; the troubling thing was that I was so excited about this thing that was ultimately too much to handle, but not in a cool way. It was just sickeningly indigestible by the end, and I’m pretty sure it will be many more years before I buy a milkshake from those guys again. Sonic’s Peanut Butter Fudge malt rules!

Obviously, I’m going to tie in Kill Bill Vol. 1 to this incident, right? Wrong! Well, okay, I am. Kill Bill is the chocolate milkshake in this story. Quentin Tarantino is the bridge we walked over, Uma Thurman is the cement that made up the ground and buildings (pretty in a certain light, but upon honest scrutiny is revealed to be rather bland and unexciting), and the shirt I almost bought at the mall is The Punisher, which I went to see instead of Kill Bill Vol. 2. All in all, it’s certainly a worthwhile experience (watching Kill Bill, that is), but for me it wasn’t all that and other than illegally downloading the super-cool theme song, I’m not interested in seeing Kill Bill Vol. 1 again.

Except… for Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama). Gogo is the chocolate in the milkshake, the spring in my step, the joy of a theatrical experience, the source of light in the night sky. Gogo is the true hero of Kill Bill Vol. 1, if you fast forward creatively and hit the stop button at a certain point and fill in the blanks with your own imagination. There is an action figure of Gogo that is available. By the time you read this, I will probably own at least three of them.

There is something magical about the schoolgirl uniform, and when it is utilized by a psychotic 17-year-old girl as an impeccable fashion statement, it is elevated into the realm of aesthetics. The character of Gogo is true art, perhaps the only worthwhile thing Tarantino will create in his otherwise creativity-barren life (feel free to disagree with me). Some dude who was talking about Kill Bill to me (in a conversation I didn’t start and wasn’t even aware I was a part of until five minutes into it) explained that he didn’t like Gogo at all, because “that ****in’ chick [Kuriyama] looks like Adrien Brody!” He was referring to the dominance of Kuriyama’s nose over the rest of her facial features. Ironically, this guy was in a comic book store wearing clothes that distinctly communicated “Hey, I still live with my mom and she does my laundry” and he had no chin of his own, as well as eyes that were too close together. Granted, I was also in the comic book store buying comic books, but at least I’m attractive. Do you see the distinction?

Regardless of real-world concerns, Gogo is the finest feature of Kill Bill, at least as far as I can tell. There’s other stuff going on with swords and blood and limbs, but nothing except for Gogo had much of an impact on me. When Tarantino releases Vols. 1 and 2 together in those Japanese cuts where they’re like uncut and totally in color (at least when blood is involved), I’ll watch the whole thing and see what I think of the complete saga. But chances are when the final credits start to roll I’ll be thinking “maybe I should go bid on that UK movie poster where it’s just Gogo swinging her ball on a chain!” I’ve never actually seen Signs, but I think I read or heard somewhere that there are glasses of water all over the house or something (sounds like a great movie, eh?). That’ll be just like my house, only instead of glasses of water it will be Gogo action figures. Ah, pop culture. And Chiaki Kuriyama is in Battle Royale, which I have on DVD waiting for me to watch in my room. What a wonderful world! I love you, Gogo!

Justin’s rating: Gogo Gadget Plot!

Justin’s review: It’s no secret that Mr. Tarantino and I have had our many differences, along with our many sissy slap-fights. It seems that when the moon is bloated and red, we rush out to the middle of an empty field to throw down and work our mutual aggression out. Oh, I’m sure that if you got ahold of Quentin, he’d be like, “Justin who? No, I don’t know the lamer.” But you just wait until the darkest hour of night, and you’ll find QT huddled in a corner somewhere, carving yet another Justin voodoo doll out of cheap pine. I make mine out of Legos.

It’s not that I can’t see why he, his few paltry films, and whatever other movie roles he’s cameoed in are revered by so many. While he loves the sound of his own voice and unnatural dialogue, and hates any sort of normal continuity in his movies, there’s a certain unorthodox streak that’s endeared himself to people sick of the routine, predictable Hollywood menu. Still, Reservoir Dogs was nothing more than an oddly edited, long-winded cops ‘n robbers piece, Pulp Fiction suffered from an endless running time while trying to look cool for cool’s sake, and the less said about the drab Jackie Brown, oh, the better.

This whole introduction, which is about three times longer than many of my first-year reviews on Mutant Reviewers, serves to highlight the importance of what I’m going to say next. When Kill Bill vol. 1 came out, QT and I called a temporary truce. My prejudice against him is not so blind as to deny myself the love of a really awesome, strangely alluring film. Even my earlier sulkings about how Miramax and QT were giving moviegoers the royal shaft by making us pay twice to see the same movie because QT wouldn’t budge on the editing and Miramax didn’t want to release a film longer than Return of the King — which is still a valid point — melted away until I finally gave in and saw Kill Bill.

Like Clare said, it’s a tough movie to put into simple words. On the surface, it’s nothing more than a semi-cheesy revenge flick; but once you dig down, it’s a semi-cheesy revenge flick with high production values and a deep love of 70’s cinema. Like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill is presented out of order, time-wise. So when we’re thrown right into the story of The Bride, a girl who is shot and left for dead on her wedding day, we’ve got a lot of unanswered questions going on.

I’m fine with that. I figure most everything will be cleared up by the end of Kill Bill vol. 2, and once Quentin is done building an enormous gold statue dedicated to his ego as a filmmaker. In the meantime, all we have to content ourselves with is that this girl is cheesed off, and some other people are going to pay for their crimes. Kill Bill is told in several chapters, each which change in tone and story focus. For instance, one chapter is dedicated solely to giving us the backstory on one of the villains, who ironically gets more characterization than The Bride herself. As the chapters flash back and forth in time, it’s just best to let go and enjoy it for what it is.

And enjoyable is the word I’d like to associate with Kill Bill. I saw it with a few friends, and as we left, my pal, the late Bob, complained that he was bored by Kill Bill. That it wasn’t entertaining. I could only gape. I mean, be turned off by the excessive (and cartoonish) violence, if you must. Be biased from the strange storytelling technique. But be bored? In my mind, it’s not even possible with this movie. It’s simply not boring — it’s anti-boring! If you can claim to be bored after a single lady has plowed through dozens and dozens of Japanese Mafioso types with a katana, then you’re not getting enough vitamins in your diet or something.

Merry Christmas from QT
Merry Christmas from QT


      • Uma Thurman’s yellow track-suit is a direct homage to the one worn by ‘Bruce Lee’ in Game of Death.
      • In order to achieve the specific look of Chinese “wuxia” (martial arts) film of the 1970s, Tarantino gave director of photography, Robert Richardson, an extensive list of genre films as a crash-course in the visual style they used. The list included films by genre-pioneers Cheh Chang and the Shaw Brothers. Tarantino also forbade the use of digital effects and “professional” gags and squibs. As such, he insisted that bloody spurts be done in the fashion made popular by Chang Cheh: Chinese condoms full of fake blood that would splatter on impact.
      • Over 450 gallons of fake blood was used on Kill Bill.
      • All the main characters are defined at some point by their feet or shoes.
      • The Bride’s reference to Pulp Fiction in the kitchen
      • Legendary martial artist/actor/cultural icon Sonny Chiba, star of more than 100 action films, gets to take a break in Kill Bill.
      • All the Star Trek references
      • Vernita Green’s literally named breakfast cereal
      • They have Red Apple cigarettes in Japan
      • How the “nurse’s” eye patch has a red medical cross on it
      • The slight ringing when the sword is drawn
      • Guess airlines don’t have a big problem with carrying swords on board! James G. writes in, “If the airliner was JAL, Japan’s national airliner, they would not have a problem with carrying swords on board, as long as they were antiques.”
      • Many people have noted the similarities between Lady Snowblood and Kill Bill, well, here’s another connection. The song that is played after the fight between O-Ren Ishii and The Bride is sung by Meiko Kaji, the original Lady Snowblood herself; it’s called “The Flower of Carnage”. [thanks James G.]
      • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? There are a few interesting crew titles listed and it’s worth it to find out about all the songs used in the soundtrack. Director Robert Rodriguez is given special thanks along with a bunch of other people. The idea of “The Bride” is credited to Q+U in the credits referring to the fact that Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman came up with the basic idea for the story while shooting Pulp Fiction together.
      • A Cautionary Tale About Going To The Movies By Mutant Clare
          • Sit back and absorb the following tale of movie viewing woe. At one of the many screenings of Kill Bill that I have thus far attended, I was unfortunate enough to be seated one row behind a group of three fellows out on an afternoon heterosexual man date. They were clearly there together but kept the requisite one seat spacer between them so as not to leave any of the other patrons in the theater with any remote impression that they were there “together” if you know what I mean. All of this was fine and good (and strangely entertaining).
          • However, as the movie began, random very heterosexual man (RVHM) # 1 decided he needed to make a comment about the film to RVHM #2 and #3. But because they were not actually seated next to one another he opted for the patented movie theater jackass move of yelling over the movie so that everyone in the theater could be privy to whatever genius commentary he had come up with. (An example of said genius commentary included the insightful cry of “AWWWW SH**********T!!!” followed immediately by “NO F***ING WAY DAWWWWG!!!!”). Eventually I grew weary of his annoying jibber jabber and unleashed an all mighty shush of unparalleled proportion. To my great surprise he turned around and said “Oh, okay. Sorry” and stopped talking to his friends. Unfortunately, when that option was taken away from him, he decided that when something struck him as funny he would instead stand half way up out of his seat, grab his guts and lunge forward in fits of hysterical giggles.
          • Keep in mind that while there are a few funny moments in the film, it’s not what I’d call a comedy necessarily. Knowing that, now realize that most often, RVHM #1 was laughing this way at things like people getting their arms chopped off and writhing around on the floor in fits of helpless, agonized screaming or things like people being stabbed and watching their intestines splatter to the floor. Clearly these things are over the top and excessively graphic. But I’m not sure I’d describe them as “funny” per se. Maybe somewhat amusing in their outlandishness. Perhaps it would appropriately induce nervous laughter or a subdued chortle. Certainly it made no sense that we would be so overtaken with hilarity as to be physically incapable of keeping himself seated.
          In short, this random heterosexual man gave me the very specific heebie-jeebies. Today’s lesson (it’s the same as any other day’s lesson really). When you go to a public place to take in entertainment of any variety, just because the lights are off doesn’t mean you should act like whatever kind of unhinged freak of nature you are at home. If you are incapable of navigating normal function in a social setting, STAY AT HOME AND LEAVE THOSE OF US WITH SOME SMALL SENSE OF NORMAL SOCIAL DECORUM TO ENJOY THE SHOW YOU NITWIT!

Groovy Quotes

Nikia Green: Mommy, what happened to you and the TV Room?
Vernita Green (covered in blood): Oh, that good for nothin’ dog of yours got his little ass in the living room and acted a damn fool, that’s what happened.

The Bride: It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I’m sorry. But you can take my word for it. Your mother had it coming. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.

O-Ren Ishii: I’m going to say this in English so you know how serious I am. As your leader, I encourage you to — from time to time and always in a respectful manner, and with the complete knowledge that my decision is final — to question my logic. If you’re unconvinced a particular plan of action I’ve decided is the wisest, tell me so. But allow me to convince you. And I will promise you, right here and now, no subject will be taboo…except the subject that was just under discussion. The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or my American heritage as a negative is, I collect your f***ing head.

The Bride: For those of you lucky enough to leave with your lives, go! But leave your limbs! They belong to me!

Hattori Hanzo: I tell you with no ego that this is my finest blade. If you should encounter God, God will be cut.

Copperhead: You have every right to want to get even.
The Bride: Get Even? Even-Steven? I would have to kill you, go upstairs, kill little Nikki, then wait for Doctor Bell to come home, and kill him. That’d be about square.

O-Ren Ishii: Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with Samurai swords.

If you liked this movie, try these:


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