The old saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure" certainly applies to the work of Quentin Tarantino, and his latest, Kill Bill Vol. 1 in particular. Yep, I finally managed to catch it yesterday, and everything you've heard about it is true. It's excessively violent, and is a lot of fun to boot- especially so if you're a fan of pop culture in general.
Tarantino's done this sort of thing before, even as far back as Reservoir Dogs and its naming of the heist gang (Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, etc.) as a tribute to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, but he pulls out all the stops with a smorgasbord of references and homages to a dizzying array of movies, songs, books, and general stuff half of which I'm sure that I didn't catch.
Uma Thurman gives her best performance since Pulp Fiction, and even then she didn't show half the range and panache she does here. I had totally written her off, but apparently QT brings out her best. Everyone gets a nifty little showcase, like Daryl Hannah in disguise as a murderous nurse (complete with white eyepatch sporting a red cross, a goofy touch which cracked me up) and Lucy Liu as Uma's former associate and would-be murderer, now set up as a Yakuza Boss. You also get a glimpse or two of David Carradine as the title character and Michael Madsen, a longtime fave character actor of mine, as another member of the assassin group that betrayed Uma. A young Asian actress named Chiaki Kuriyama (picture above) makes a strong impression as Liu's crazed bodyguard, Go-go Yubari, who dresses in a school uniform for all those schoolgirl fetishists out there and gets to swing a mean buzzsaw mace in the big climactic fight scene. Good old Sonny Chiba gets a great cameo as well. As someone who really liked the Green Hornet TV show in the 60s, I got a kick out of all the references and homages to Bruce Lee: Liu's gang, the Crazy 88's, all wore masks like Kato, the Hornet's sidekick as portayed by Lee, and her entourage drives to the restuarant to the strains of the Hornet's TV theme song, Al Hirt's rendition of "Flight of the Bumblebee".
And yes, the film is violent and bloody. Maybe I'm just acclimated to that sort of thing, because the majority of the violence struck me as cartoony and over the top. People's heads get cut off, and literal fountains of blood spray out, and that sort of thing. To get upset about the excessive violence in this film is disingeneous to say the least...it's like going swimming and getting upset because you got wet. The viewer should know going in what a Tarantino film is like, if they've ever seen anything of his at all. And that's not even taking into account that, for the most part, the most bloody scenes were either in the clever, extended anime segment (which enabled QT to get away with some stuff that would have gotten this an NC-17 rating in a heartbeat), or presented in black and white like a generous part of the big fight scene in the restuarant and the opening scene.
Couple of things bugged me, though. And here be spoilers, so beware. The Bride (Uma) wakes from her coma, kills two men, hides in one of the men's truck, then spends 13 hours regaining the use of her feet and legs. I find it a wee hard to accept that no one would heard the commotion, called the police, and at least one of the policemen wouldn't have thought to check the dead man's vehicle to see if it had been stolen, especially when they surely would have noticed his keys were missing, at some point in the 13 hours. A lot can happen in 13 hours, even in the big city. This is nit-picky, I know, when so much else in this film is larger than life and comic bookish, but still. I should also note that I thought for someone who spent four years in a coma, the Bride sure got back in fighting shape mighty fast. Anyway, none of this really matters with this movie. Forest for the trees territory.
I read somewhere recently where the author posits that Tarantino is like a hip-hop artist, sampling from all sorts of sources to assemble his complete work and that's very true. I like the way Tarantino's not afraid to go to extremes, and if he oversteps the bounds of good taste at least he does so with style...and that's as good a justification as any, in my book. Kill Bill Vol.1 is damn near better than Pulp Fiction, and that's high praise. In fact, I thought it was a work of bloody genius. I very much look forward to Vol. 2.