Kill Bill Vol. I
"Writer/director Quentin Tarantino created a cinematic sugar-tooth that's nothing but a 90-minute genre-homage to films that influenced him the most, only with his own style and story."
- Mighty Peking Man
Kill Bill Vol. I (2003)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Parks
PLOT: Four years after surviving a bullet in the head, the bride emerges from a coma and swears revenge on her former master and his deadly squad of international assassins.
MAIROSU'S REVIEW: [spoilaaaahs]
MAIROSU'S RATING: 7/10
JOE909'S REVIEW: This is my first review for City On Fire in a long time, and it will probably be my last. The reason is simple. What was once a cool site is now a haven for losers. And I mean losers of the worst type. Worse than D&D geeks, computer nerds, and the like. I am referring to the lowest of the low: the Asian movie fanboy.
It's all obvious. It's all petty jealousy. If not jealousy, then a lame attempt at sounding "different" (and therefore smarter, right, fanboys?) from the pack.
I will tell you why I think Kill Bill Volume 1 is a great movie, but first I must educate the Asian movie fanboys out there. Because you see, unlike them, I actually know my ass from a hole in the ground. I have been watching the same movies that inspired Tarantino since I was a kid, in the '70s. I was there when you had to search high and low for any Asian movies at all. I was there when things weren't so easy. The fanboy of today merely logs onto Hkflix.com, orders some titles, reads a few message board posts, and instantly thinks he knows everything about the genre.
The fanboy is wrong. The fanboy is ALWAYS wrong. The fanboy is beneath contempt.
From "Shaolin Fox Conspiracy" to "The Chinese Mechanic," I've seen it. I've seen the trashy US movies, the Italian exploitation, the spaghetti westerns. I've seen the samurai movies: new, old, and boring. And I can tell you that, even if Tarantino has lifted an image here, a scenario there, he's nowhere near the level of creative thievery that Asian filmmakers have committed on Hollywood movies.
Yeah, yeah, yeah; we all know about the City on Fire/Reservoir Dogs connections. Fanboys use this day in and day out to keep the fire alive. But the fanboy, again, knows nothing. Let's look at some Hong Kong movies that have pilfered from Hollywood. We'll start with one of my favorites, Pink Force Commando. Here's a movie that not only lifts images from Evil Dead (the heroine, Bridgett Lin, replaces a missing arm with a shotgun), but also takes liberally from Indiana Jones, the Dirty Dozen, and the Road Warrior. Moving on, there's Red Wolf, a movie that takes from both Die Hard and Under Siege. And how about the Andy Lau movie Crocodile Hunter, another one that borrows from Die Hard?
But the fanboy is incapable of making such comparisons, because the fanboy is unaware of these movies. The fanboy has only seen Jackie Chan's classics. The fanboy has only seen those films available at Blockbuster. The fanboy has no knowledge ? other than what he has read online ? of movies made before 1980. The fanboy merely reads that Tarantino "rips off" other movies, and believes it, without seeing those movies for himself.
Having seen so many of these movies, I can safely say that not one single frame of Kill Bill borders on plagiarism. When Uma Thurman shows up wearing Bruce Lee's tracksuit, you don't stand up and scream "Scoundrel!" Instead you just shake your head at how cool and how RIGHT it seems. Uma now owns that tracksuit as much as Bruce Lee ever did, and I say that as a bona fide Bruce Lee fan. This movie is vibrant, colorful, masterful, and original. Like Ebert wrote, "It's kind of brilliant." I agree. I agree entirely. Tarantino does what so many HK film buffs have dreamed of: he's made a cinematic love letter to all those movies he loved as a kid.
When I reviewed the script on here a while back, I worried that the movie wouldn't work on screen. After all, there wasn't much story involved, not much plot beyond the standard "revenge" theme. I don't know what I was worried about. The Shaw empire was built on films that basically revolved around the same theme, the theme of vengeance. And each of those films worked just fine: simple yarns about men seeking vengeance, yarns that reached near-mythic proportions due to their simple natures.
Like those movies, Kill Bill is mythic. Kill Bill is more mythic than any sci-fi or fantasy movie I've seen. These characters are not real-life; they're comic book caricatures come to life. That's another thing I worried about, that viewers wouldn't care for the paper-thin characters. But I was wrong. Tarantino enjoys many triumphs with this movie, but possibly the greatest is that he and his actors make these mythic characters seem so flesh and blood; the actors in the X-Men movies looked like what they were, actors in costumes, but the actors in Kill Bill BECOME their characters. That's not Darryl Hannah on screen, that's Elle Driver. That's not Uma Thurman. That's the Bride. There have been only a few times when I so believed that the characters on screen were real, not just the writer's creations brought to life. With only a modicum of dialog to work with, the actors successfully bring their characters to life with expressions, with the way they carry themselves. It works brilliantly, and the spaghetti-western soundtrack only serves to heighten the mythic proportions. The movie plays like Once Upon a Time in The West with samurai swords.
The movie works. The story works. With this film, Tarantino proves that he can make a moving, unique film out of the most basic of stories. His directorial skills are through the roof. The static shots that characterized Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have been replaced with some of the most inventive shots I've seen. The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves is directed with such flair and mastery that it's instantly become one of the best sword-fights ever filmed. Like I suspected he would, Tarantino made a few changes to the story, but nothing major. For example, the brief segment in which Go-Go kills some poor fool in a bar was originally scripted for her sister Yuki, and was featured in the unfilmed chapter "Yuki's Revenge." One thing that interests me is the internet claim that the Blue Leaves segment is in color in the Japanese version of the film. What's strange is that Tarantino specified in both drafts of the screenplay that the scene would be in black and white.
Re-watch value is high. There are no slow spots in Kill Bill. At first I doubted the wisdom of cutting the film in half, but now I see it was a good decision. The Blue Leaves sequence leaves the viewer breathless. I couldn't imagine sitting there for another 90 minutes. It also serves to whet your appetite for the rest of the story. I cannot wait to see Volume Two. I absolutely cannot wait. I haven't been this excited to see a movie since I was a kid, and saw the commercials for Star Wars. The fanboys are excited, too, of course. This means that now they have someone to bash, so they can fool others into believing they're intelligent people with intelligent opinions.
I have another theory why the fanboys don't like Tarantino's movies. From the start, Tarantino has made cool movies for cool people. His earliest and greatest supporters, after all, were the jet-set crowd. By nature, however, the fanboy is not cool. The fanboy doesn't understand cool. Kill Bill is a benchmark of cool. The fanboy doesn't get it, because the fanboy is as cool as an overweight, acne-ridden, mullet-headed D&D freak.
I'm not going to bore you with details. Everyone knows the story, and if you want more of a rundown, you can check out my overlong script synopsis below. The fact is, Kill Bill is a fantastic movie, a movie made for those who love movies. Tarantino's passion for cinema is evident in each and every blood-spattered, ingenious frame.
It's simple. If you don't see Kill Bill just because you have a juvenile hatred for Tarantino or Miramax, you're an asshole.
JOE909'S REVIEW: 10/10
REEFER'S REVIEW: As I watched the highly anticipated fourth film of Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill, I wondered to myself about how I was gonna review this film without giving too much away. Well, please understand that this is an especially difficult chore since there is simply nothing to give away. Aside from withholding details as to who dies and how, any plot synopsis you can give would BE the actual movie.
Summary: The Bride (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a coma, inflicted by members of a cheesy-named assassination squad, and commences to eviscerate members of said group and its mysterious leader, Bill.
And that's exactly what happens.
Sure, the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino loads up on the gore, features a pretty great soundtrack, and some fun performances (especially by Japanese film legend, Sonny Chiba) but the narrative is nearly pointless. For example, if the subject of this film is revenge, then I believe the audience got the point in the first fifteen minutes. The Bride, as the heroine of Quentin's fourth film, simply travels from place to place slicing-and-dicing as the story requires. Mixing up the chronology of the story's happenings seems to only be an attempt to hide the fact that nothing new IS happening. In fact, the quality of Quentin Tarantino's fourth film's screenplay is certainly in question because each segment of the film is divided into nothing more clever than simple chapters instead of cinematically literate story transitions. I ask you, shouldn't we expect something more?
Inspired by Miramax, I have decided
to split my review in half and withhold my rating so that I can double
the readership, thus rake in more profits. So, we'll talk again in February.
. . . . . .
Kill Bill Volume 1 Review Volume 2
Now where was I?
Now, the homage paid to Asian films and some of Quentin's other stylistic touches do well the heighten the experience, but again, shouldn't we expect more from the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino? I mean, really, its his fourth film isn't it? Least that's what the ads and the opening credits so proudly proclaim in huge font. Shouldn't this be an achievement second to none? Well, that is, of course, for the masses to decide, but I would be lesser a film reviewer if I didn't let it be known that it really isn't.
At least not in this form. Yeah, those who really want to know if the entire film is good will have to wait until February of 2004 for Volume 2, and for some, it may be too long a wait. In my mind, anyway, this clearly financial decision ironically "killed" Kill Bill. Sure, Quentin Tarantino's fourth film leaves you with some tidbits of info to chew on until then, but unfortunately that transforms this installment into very simple back story.
Restoring the film to it's full 3 hours-plus would truly do wonders for it. Such a "radical" idea would make the long-winded exposition of many of the supporting characters seem more practical and, I am guessing, symmetrical because I predict that there are similar narrative excursions in the next volume about the other characters. I am speaking mainly of an excellent anime story, that probably runs over ten minutes, about how O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) became the icy assassin that she is, but there are many such sequences in Quentin's fourth film that could be cut. Moreover, the audience needs someone to root for. I hope the next installment softens The Bride up a bit because what we are left with here is an unlikable killer who has been done wrong, even though we can all assume that she has only done wrong her entire life. So who cares? Isn't she getting what she deserves?
Ok, this is an action film. Quentin's fourth film does not fail to deliver in that department. That is, it doesn't if you don't care about characterization and motivation. It doesn't if you don't care that Uma is nothing but a revenge robot. And finally, it doesn't if you don't mind your gore sudden and shockingly messy. Limbs, heads, torsos and the like are shredded, lopped, and severed while much blood is splattered, sprayed, spilled, and squirted for all to see, making it one of the most violent American films in years. It is for this reason, I believe, that in the middle of the final bloodbath the screen inexplicably goes black and white. Maybe the level of bloodshed is temporarily tamed by the loss of color. Otherwise, I have no explanation to why this film did not receive the dreaded NC-17 rating.
While I did mention that the wait might be too long for some, I will not be passing on Volume 2. After all, I have 110 minutes now invested in it. But for those of you who haven't been as eager, you can skip this one. The next one will probably be better.
So congrats Miramax. You have another sucker. Why don't I just mail you my $7.50 now.
REEFER'S RATING: 6.5/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: The plot is simple: On the day of her wedding, The Bride (Uma Thurman) gets a visit from some uninvited guests - The DIVAS (aka Deadly Viper Assassination Squad [Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox and Julie Dreyfus]), headed by Bill (David Carradine), her former boss. They turn the happiest day of her life into a full throttle massacre. Everyone in the chapel is shot dead - the priest, the guests, family and the groom. The DIVAS conclude their kill-crazy rampage by beating The Bride excessively and ending her and her unborn child's life with a bullet to the head - so they thought. Miraculously, The Bride survives, but as a vegetable. It takes four years for her to emerge from her coma; when she awakens, the first thing on her mind is the loss of her child. The second, rabid REVENGE.
"Kill Bill Vol. I" is not a martial arts film in the traditional sense. Hell, it isn't even a movie in the traditional sense. Writer/director Quentin Tarantino created a cinematic sugar-tooth that's nothing but a 90-minute genre-homage to films that influenced him the most, only with his own style and story. 1970's chopsockies, Chanbara (Japanese swordplay), Italian westerns, Anime, and pretty much any type of 1970s-current exploitation trash-cinema you can think of. Think of it as "someone's love for movies" put on film. Tarantino even goes out of his way to borrow one of Sir Run Run Shaw's most prized possessions - the Shaw Brothers logo. Following the logo is the pop cultural-istic "Now Our Feature Presentation" bit - complete with static, discoloration, flickering and elevator music; reminding us that we're about to experience what Tarantino felt when he would catch films like "The Flying Guillotine" in ghetto theatres during his theatre-going childhood years. Even the soundtrack to the film is a collection of recognizable tunes that range from "The Green Hornet" theme to the musical mastermind of Ennio Morricone. Top it off with an original score by The RZA (best known as The Wu-Tang Clan's chief producer) and the film sports one hell of a colorful soundtrack.
There's more than a touch of Tarantino's trademark dialogue, but "Kill Bill Vol. I" is far from what viewers loved about "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs". It's more of an action film, but like his previous work, Tarantino tells the story in a non-linear fashion which allows the film to open with a bang.
There's going to be a lot speculation on the martial arts choreography of this film, especially by die-hard martial arts film enthusiasts. "There are too many cuts...", "Uma is too this...Uma is too that...", "It's filmed too close...", "Keanu pulls it off better in The Matrix..." Well, some of this may be true. Some of it may be bullshit due to biased fanboy pricks. Personally, I found the action satisfying. Can they be compared Jackie Chan's crisp action in "Drunken Master II"? No. Are they better than some of the fast 'n swift hand-to-hand sequences by Yuen Woo-ping (who also choreographed "Kill Bill") in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? No again. I doubt Quentin Tarantino was going for the Martial Arts Film of the Century Award anyways. Besides, 80% of the action is mostly slice 'n dice swordplay (literally) which is more reminiscent to Chanbara films like the "Lone Wolf and Cub" and "Zaotichi" classics (complete with exaggerated spray-out blood). I'm obliged to say that the climactic "House of the Blue Leaves" sequence is one of the most satisfying get-up-out-of-your-seat moments in the last 25 years of martial arts film. Who ever thought that Tarantino, out of all the filmmakers in the world, would make a martial-arts scene so long, so insane, so bloody and so sweet? If you ask me, Neo and his 100+ CGI Agent Smiths in "Matrix Reloaded" can choke on their mega-pixels.
The performances were magnetic. Uma Thurman plays The Bride like a winning-champ. Sonny Chiba (Hattori Hanzo) is at his most charismatic since God knows when. Chiaki Kuriyama (Go Go Yubari) is fantastic, reprising some of her characteristics we loved in "Battle Royale". Darryl Hannah (Elle Driver), Vivica Fox (Vernita Green), Julie Dreyfus (Sofie Fatale) and Michael Parks (Sheriff) were all nice to see and get the job done. Although David Carradine (Bill) is mostly voice, I like what I hear and look forward to a full performance in "Kill Bill Vol. II". Same goes for Michael Madsen (Budd), who is pretty much Michael Madsen, as he only has one line in the film. Gordon Liu (Johnny Mo) just does what he does best with a quick dual with The Bride - we'll see more of him in the next film as well, but this time as grandmaster "Pei Mei". I've heard a lot of negative comments about Lucy Lui's (O-Ren Ishii) performance. I wouldn't exactly say that she's award-winning material, but to say she can't carry a line is bullshit. She wasn't bad at all. This is what you guys get for watching "Charlie's Angels" and "Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever". All those flashbacks are screwing you up.
To put it simply , "Kill Bill Vol. I" is a cinematic high. Not only is it grindhouse-camp at it's best, but it also has moments of intensity that very few filmmakers manage to pull off. You not only see revenge, but you also feel it. You not only witness the sounds and visuals of gunshots, slices, chops, and blood-spills; but you'll also find them profound and startling.
Currently, it feels good to be a Quentin Tarantino fan. Hell, it always felt good. I'll look forward to each of his films just like I always did the minute I saw "Reservoir Dogs" when I rented it from a grocery store back in '93. Tarantino is a filmmaker that knows how to have fun and make cinematic achievements at the same time.
Meanwhile, Jackie Chan can continue to make "Rush Hour" films. Andy and Larry can continue perfecting computerized action pieces. Jet Li... no comment, but at least he has the underrated "Kiss of the Dragon" and the first-rate "Hero" in his recent filmography. As far as you anti-Tarantino/Matrix-geeks, you can continue to follow Neo wherever he takes you. But you'll learn a lot more from Chang Cheh, Sergio Leone, Kenji Misumi and Quentin Tarantino. Oh yeah, and you EXTREME Miramax-haters - for the love of movies, put the business and drama aside for once.
"Kill Bill" is what a fucking movie is all about.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 10/10
As in his previous films and screenplays, Tarantino takes liberties with typical plot structure. Kill Bill is told in novel format; i.e., chapters. Some chapters are linear, others take place before or after preceding chapters. Sometimes this jumping around comes off as too forced, but I'm betting once on screen everything will flow together smoothly.
But one thing about the chapter format is that it makes reviewing this story easy, as all I have to do is a chapter by chapter rundown. Be warned, though, as I will give away certain plot points. Rest assured, there aren't many plot points to give away. This is a barebones revenge movie all the way, with few detours and few surprises.
Regardless, there are several spoilers below, so be warned. Jump to the Summary if you want to avoid these spoilers. I'm going to review the 202 page draft, as this is the version you will see on screen:
The opening of the story, and one of the shortest chapters in the script. It begins with a quick flashback to the Bride, seemingly dead, at her wedding. Everyone else in the church murdered by Bill, Elle Driver, O-Ren Ishii, Budd, and Vernita Green: the DIVAS (Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), the Bride's former teammates. Bill finishes the job, by putting a bullet in the Bride's temple (this, after she tells him she's carrying his baby).
But we learn through her voice-over that the Bride survives this assassination attempt, in a coma. Now, five years later, she is driving her VW Karman Ghia (incidentally, one of my favorite cars ever) toward her final confrontation with the man behind her near-assassination and current woes: Bill.
The Bride lets us know that Bill is the last person on her list to be killed. So even though this is the beginning of the movie, story-wise it is in reality near the very end. Another thing this accomplishes is stealing the thunder from the fights we shall soon see, as we already know the Bride's going to defeat everyone she encounters in her effort to get to Bill. There's no suspense when she gets into a fight; we already know she'll live until she gets to Bill. So please, don't get mad at me for giving away the endings to fights, as literally in the first minute or two of the film you'll know the Bride's going to survive them all.
Chapter One: 2
This chapter takes place before the Prologue, before the Bride has finished off everyone save for Bill. She comes to Vernita Green's suburban home, looking for vengeance. Vernita, however, has become a housewife in the past five years. The Bride knocks on Vernita's front door. Vernita opens it. We get a "Spaghetti Western flashback" (as QT describes it, meaning that we see the past in an orange tint) of Vernita beating on the Bride at her wedding. Then we get a Shaw Brothers-style zoom into the Bride's eyes (again, QT refers to Shaw Brothers-style zooms and camera tricks throughout the script) and she attacks.
The Bride and Vernita battle in Vernita's living room. QT writes that they smash apart a cabinet that features photos and memorabilia that represent the black experience in the American military, whatever that means. Again, this will probably need to be seen on screen to have any effect.
This fight is interrupted by the entrance of Vernita's five-year-old daughter, who's just returned from school. Here we have a John Woo homage/rip-off, as Vernita and the Bride hide their weapons from the girl and pretend to be old friends, a la "The Killer." The daughter asks how their house got so trashed. Vernita tells her their pet dog did it, and tells the girl to go to her room and leave the grown-ups to talk.
After the girl leaves, there's a humorous moment as Vernita asks the Bride if she'd like a drink. The Bride sits down as Vernita pours her coffee. Vernita says that she knows there's no way the Bride will ever forgive her, and the Bride tells her she's right. The two of them arrange a meeting place, for later in the night, to settle their score. But Vernita pulls a fast one on the Bride, yanking a gun out of a box of cereal. The Bride dodges the bullets and guts Vernita with her SOG combat knife.
The Bride looks up and sees Vernita's daughter watching. The Bride tells her she didn't want her to see this, and, if she feels like getting revenge in twenty or so years, the Bride will be waiting for her. Kill accomplished, the Bride crosses Vernita's name from her list.
Chapter Two: The Comatose Bride
Picking up where the Prologue's flashback left off, we continue with the story of how the Bride went into and came out of her coma. We open in the church in which she was nearly murdered. A redneck sheriff and his son survey the carnage. At first they believe the Bride's dead too. But then, in a bizarre automatic defense, she spits in the sheriff's face, even though she's unconscious.
Some time later, and we see the Bride laying in a hospital. Elle Driver comes in, another of the Bride's former teammates, and also one of her attackers at the wedding. Dressed as a nurse with a white eyepatch (another Woo homage, this time "Hard Boiled"), Elle gets in an argument on her cell phone with Bill: she wants to kill the Bride, Bill won't let her. Elle settles for mocking the Bride to her unconscious face. The Bride responds with one of her automatic spittings to the face, which enrages Elle. Elle beats the Bride around and screams that she'd better not ever come out of her coma. Elle storms off, and we look forward to the confrontation between these two.
Through the Bride's VO, we learn that five years pass. And then, suddenly, the Bride awakes on a stormy night. She slowly realizes her predicament; her baby is dead, she's in a hospital, she wants revenge. Only problem: she can't walk, her legs are useless after five years in a bed. Crawling to the parking lot, she pulls herself into a truck named the "Pussy Wagon" and lies in the backseat.
As she concentrates her will, trying to wiggle her toes, we get a cool flashback of the DIVAS, the Bride's old team. Presented as a TV show with Lalo Shiffrin-style music and "Speed Racer"-type animation (again, QT's description), we get a short montage that lets us meet and see in action each of the assassins. There's Elle Driver, the one-eyed warrior; O-Ren Ishii, the merciless, half-Japanese, half-Chinese samurai; Vernita Green, the knife expert; the Bride (whose real name, bizarrely, is BLEEPED from the film and the script; as QT explains, he'll keep her name secret until he wants us to know it); Budd, aka Sidewinder, Bill's brother; and the man himself, Bill.
Back to the Bride in the Pussy Wagon. Amazingly, she's able to get her legs working. She steals the van and drives to the desert. There she searches the rocks and rubble and finds one marked rock in particular. She begins to dig into the ground beneath it. From the earth she pulls out a box filled with weapons and cold hard cash, lots of it.
The Bride tells us that even though she's out of touch with the world, and has no idea what's become of the DIVAS, she knows where she can find one of them. O-Ren Ishii will surely be in Japan, and so the Bride's vengeance will begin there. The chapter ends with the Bride purchasing, with cash, one first-class seat on the next flight to Okinawa, Japan.
Chapter Three: The Man From Okinawa
Another brief chapter. Picking up right after Chapter Two, the Bride walks into a noodle shop in Okinawa. She engages in some chit-chat in Japanese with the elderly, friendly cook (incidentally, the dialog in this chapter and the next is spoken almost entirely in Japanese, with English subtitles) . This comes to an abrupt halt when the Bride relates that she's here to find Hattori Hanzo. We get a perfectly clichéd moment as the cook accidentally slices his own hand in shock, when he hears her say this name.
Of course, the cook himself is Hanzo, maker of samurai swords. He takes the Bride into his workshop, where she looks over his swords. Hanzo tells her he swore long ago to stop making swords. The Bride says that maybe this time he'll make an exception, as she's out for vengeance on one of Hanzo's former students, a student whom Hanzo now hates: Bill. Hanzo tells the Bride to get comfortable; it will take him a few days to make the sword.
Once done, he gives the Bride the sword and tells her that it's the best he's ever made. The chapter ends with Hanzo teaching the Bride a ninja clan oath.
Chapter Four: Showdown At House of Blue Leaves
Probably the most anticipated scene in the film, due in no small part to Harry Knowles' exuberant praise on Ain't It Cool News. Yes, it is an excellent battle scene, as written. But no, there isn't one single martial arts move in the entire battle. It's a sword fight, all the way. This chapter follows directly after the events shown in Chapter Three.
We start off with a recap, via the Bride's VO, of how O-Ren Ishii took her throne as ruler of the Japanese underworld. Surprisingly, this is mostly shown in what QT calls "glorious fuckin' Japanimation." I wonder though if this will be cut from the film, as it doesn't add much to the story: we just get to see O-Ren brutally taking over the Japanese criminal empire. We also learn that she's very touchy when someone mentions her half-Chinese roots.
We catch up with O-Ren today, who's on her way to the House of Blue Leaves restaurant. Her lackeys follow her; they're Kato-garbed footstools (i.e., they wear black uniforms, hats, and masks) and are called the Crazy 88, even though there are only 10 of them with O-Ren at the moment.
Meanwhile, Sofie Fatale, Bill and O-Ren's lawyer, is also on her way to the restaurant. Through her window we see a motorcyclist driving right alongside Sofie's limo. This motorcyclist is wearing yellow and black Motorcross leathers and a helmet with a tinted visor. It is, of course, the Bride, as we see in a special effects shot that shows her face beneath the visor. Looking over at Sofie in her car, the Bride again flashes back to her wedding day, to Sofie standing behind Bill et al as they attempt to murder the Bride.
Sofie reaches the restaurant and goes in to find O-Ren and her minions doing the last thing you'd expect: singing karaoke on the top floor, in a private room. Sofie joins them, and we see outside their room that the Bride is listening in through the paper doors. The Bride's VO is going on through this, and in a neat little trick, QT makes it seem that O-Ren almost hears the Bride's voice-over dialog. Suspecting something, O-Ren sends someone out to see if anyone's out there listening. Of course, no one is, as the Bride's already back outside, in the parking lot.
The Bride peels off her leathers, revealing a matching yellow and black tracksuit underneath. The same as the one, QT writes, that Bruce Lee wore in "Game of Death." The Bride unsheathes her Hanzo sword, goes back into the restaurant, and all hell breaks loose. First she sneak attacks Sofie Fatale in the restroom, taking her hostage as she proceeds to ransack O-Ren's private dining room.
What follows is a battle of carnage and destruction that is described right down to the very last detail. Sonny Chiba, sword fight coordinator, will certainly have his work cut out for him. Sofie is the first to go down, as the Bride hacks off her arm. The Bride then battles the ten Crazy 88s, who are each armed with swords. Next she takes on Go-Go Yubari, O-Ren's teenaged, female, school uniform-wearing bodyguard. Go-Go fights with a ball and chain and gives the Bride a run for her money, but the Bride finally takes her down and ends the fight by spearing her.
The Bride looks over at O-Ren, ready to finish her. But not so soon, as countless more Crazy 88's crash into the restaurant on their motorcycles. They surround the Bride in a Spaghetti Western-style showdown. Choreographed to heavy metal music (QT writes that the Bride almost seems to be dancing to the music as she fights), the Bride takes on all of them in another meticulously-described, frenetic battle. Strangely, this entire fight is to be filmed in black and white, as per QT's description.
Again, only the Bride remains alive after the battle, as color returns to the screen. Now she finally takes on O-Ren, who berates the Bride for thinking she's a samurai. O-Ren gets the better of the Bride at first, as they fight on the fake snow that covers the House of Blue Leaves' rear garden area. QT describes this scene as being filtered through psychedelic lights, so it should be a good show.
The Bride, of course, finally starts to give better than she gets. O-Ren even apologizes for mocking her skills. The Bride finishes O-Ren off with a slice to the neck. As she stands dying, O-Ren calmly talks to the Bride in a scene seemingly lifted from "Shogun Assassin" (i.e., the "to have my own neck cut like that is ridiculous" line), as she says: "That really was a Hattori Hanzo sword. I always wanted one."
The Bride yanks Sofie Fatale to her feet and threatens to dismember her limb by limb unless she tells her what she wants to know; namely, the whereabouts of Bill and the DIVAS. Information extracted, the Bride ends the chapter by crossing O-Ren's name from her kill list.
Chapter Five: Can She Bake A Cherry Pie
This chapter picks up right where Chapter Two, the last chapter which followed the linear storyline, left off. This is also the first time we see Bill. Previously he's only been shown from behind, or we've heard his voice on the phone, but never have we seen his face (as QT is sure to explain each time Bill's mentioned in the first four chapters). QT's complete description of Bill: "He looks cool."
In the 222 page draft of Kill Bill, this chapter was really #6, and for #5 we had "Yuki's Revenge," a chapter that dealt with Yuki Yubari (Go-Go's sister) trying to get her revenge upon the Bride. This was the only chapter that featured gunfights and other fare that is typical of a regular action film, but unfortunately QT chose to cut it from the script for length.
So now this is chapter #5, and it works well enough for an intro to Bill. He's on a hit, his objective to take out a middle-aged woman who runs her own casino in a hotel room. After making some cash in craps, Bill takes out the goons (again, this is a sword fight; the goons even carry samurai swords), then drops the woman out of the window.
Directly before he fights the goons, however, Bill receives a phone call from Elle Driver, who tells him that the Bride has killed Vernita. Bill tells Elle that they'd better get over to Budd's place, to warn him that the Bride will most likely come for him next.
Chapter Six: The Lonely Grave Of Paula Schultz
This chapter continues with the linear plot, as we are introduced to Budd, Bill's downtrodden brother. Once one of the DIVA assassins, Budd's now a drunk cowboy who works as a bouncer in a strip club in Austin, Texas. Bill and Elle pay him a visit, with Bill pleading to Budd to be careful. Here we have one of the few lines of dialog in the script that matches QT's former work: Bill asks Budd if he'd like to tell Elle, who's sitting in Bill's car, hello. Budd says "Never said bye, can't think of a reason to say hi." Budd then goes on to tell Bill that he sold the Hanzo sword Bill gave him. Budd's truly given up the life.
Bill and Elle give up and leave Budd, who shortly thereafter heads for work. As he drives to the club, we see the Bride watching after him in her Pussy Wagon. She follows him in, dressed as a cowgirl. We get another Shaw Brothers zoom into the Bride's eyes and a Spaghetti Western flashback to Budd beating on her at her wedding. Her chance to attack him at the bar foiled by the mass of drunkards within, the Bride follows Budd back to his trailer. She covers her face with black makeup and crawls toward his home. Budd, meanwhile, blasts rockabilly music and gets drunk.
A few yards from Budd's trailer, and the Bride's afraid he's spotted her, as he pokes his head out into the night. But then he goes back inside, and the Bride crawls on. She crashes through the front door, Hanzo sword in hand, only to get blasted by a double barrel-full of rock salt from Budd's shotgun. The Bride goes down, seemingly dead again.
Later, Budd calls up Elle and tells her he's captured the Bride. Again, anytime they refer to the Bride, her name is bleeped out of the soundtrack, which, let me tell you, really builds to the mystery: what is the Bride's real name? Budd tells Elle that he's got the Bride's new Hanzo sword, and it looks to be the best ever. Elle wants to buy it. Budd tells her he'll take a cool million for it. Elle says she'll pay him this, if he promises to kill the Bride in the most painful way possible. She tells him she'll be in Texas the next day.
We go back to the Bride, who awakens later that night, bound hand and foot in the back of Budd's pickup. Apparently she was only blasted in the arm by Budd's shotgun. Meanwhile, Budd and his pal Ernie have dug a coffin out of an old grave marked "Paula Schultz." Beside it they have a fresh pine box, as QT writes, "straight out of Fistful of Dollars." Budd and Ernie toss the new pine coffin into Paula Schultz's grave, and then toss the Bride inside the coffin. In a last gesture of benevolence, Budd gives the Bride a flashlight. Then he and Ernie hammer the coffin shut and bury it. Budd finishes the proceedings by placing a dozen red roses over the grave.
Inside the coffin, the Bride freaks out. She even goes so far as to scream "Help me." But gradually she regains control, becomes the character we have seen throughout the story: calm, cool, in control. She begins to breathe in a strange, bizarre fashion.
Chapter Seven: The Cruel Tutelage Of Pai Mei
This is one of my favorite chapters in the movie, even if the first half is, really, the least relevant to the story, and should have been dropped instead of "Yuki's Revenge." Whereas the other chapters have been predominately sword-fighting based, this chapter is old-fashioned kung-fu flick from beginning to end. It's also the most enjoyable chapter of the script, with some great comedic moments.
The chapter opens in 1990, back when the Bride was still a DIVA. Bill drives her to Pai Mei's temple, which, the script tells us, is "Smack dab in the middle of China." Bill tells the Bride, via voiceover, the story of the mad monk Pai Mei. QT writes that while we hear Bill speak, on screen we will see scenes of Lo Lieh playing Pai Mei in various Shaw Brothers movies (i.e. "Executioners From Shaolin," "Fist of the White Lotus").
Now, this begs the question: originally, Yuen Woo-Ping was scheduled to play Pai Mei in Kill Bill. But Yuen dropped out and wanted to just focus on the choreography. Reportedly, Yuen suggested that QT himself play Pai Mei. QT agreed. Not the best actor to play a 150-year-old Chinese monk, sure, but QT's the boss of this pic, and if he wants to play the part, he can. My question is, though, why didn't he just go get Lo Lieh, especially considering the fact that Lo Lieh will be shown in these Shaw Brothers clips?
Bill leaves the Bride at the base of the temple, and she climbs the 100 stairs that lead to the entrance. She finally meets Pai Mei, who lives alone in his temple. The Bride requests that Pai Mei teach her kung-fu. I should mention that the dialog in this chapter is spoken in Mandarin. But we won't hear Mandarin on screen. In a move that will delight some and infuriate others, QT has chosen to present this chapter as if it was really an old-school kung-fu movie; in other words, all of the dialog will be dubbed in English by different voice actors. So even though Uma Thurman and QT will be speaking in Mandarin, on screen we will hear someone else's voice saying their lines in English.
Pai Mei belittles the Bride and wonders why he should even bother teaching her. He asks her what skills she has, and the Bride responds that she's very proficient with samurai swords. "I hate the Japs," responds Pai Mei, another indication that QT is really going for an old-school chop-socky feel for this chapter. Pai Mei has the Bride show off her skill with a sword, then goes about tossing her around his temple.
This fight employs all the tricks of the student-versus-teacher trade. The Bride throws everything she's got against Pai Mei, who casually evades it all, while easily beating her to a pulp. There's one crazy moment where he leaps into the air and lands on the blade of her sword. After belittling her some more, Pai Mei accepts the Bride as his student.
What follows is a sequence of kung-fu training that matches anything else in an old kung-fu film (and was, of course, inspired by and lifted from many of them). We see the Bride carrying buckets of water up and down the hundred stairs, practicing a variety of styles, attempting to punch through a wall three inches in front of her, and, tying in to the previous chapter, breathing in the strange manner she employed while buried in Paula Schultz's grave.
This tutelage goes on for three years, all the while Pai Mei berating her. Finally the Bride excels at all of the skills she's been taught, even punching through the wall. Pai Mei finally gives her his praise, and then promptly instructs her to punch through a wall one inch in front of her. The Bride obeys.
Back to the linear storyline, with the Bride trapped in the pine box coffin. You guessed it, the lid is exactly three inches from her face. Using the three-inch punch Pai Mei taught her, the Bride smashes through the coffin, then drags herself through a few feet of dirt to the surface. QT describes this scene as straight out of an Italian zombie movie, as the Bride pulls herself out of the grave.
The chapter ends with the Bride, covered head to foot in dirt (QT describes her as a six foot, female version of Pig-Pen, from "Peanuts"), walking into a soda fountain joint and ordering a glass of water.
Chapter Eight: Elle and I
The following morning, Elle drinks "breakfast margaritas" with Budd, who's just finished telling her how he buried the Bride alive. Elle is delighted. Budd asks her if she regrets the Bride's death, or if she's relieved by it. Elle says a little of both. And here we learn the Bride's name, finally. Are you ready for it? The Bride's real name is Beatrix Kiddo. That's it. Are you shocked? Surprised? Unless you went to grade school with a girl named Beatrix Kiddo, I doubt you are.
My theory is this. QT is a sharp guy. He realizes that, the way the Web is, people (like me) will get copies of his script, long before the movie's even finished filming. So maybe in an effort to keep secrets, he's made up this fake name for the Bride, and perhaps in the movie she'll have a different, more shocking, identity. But as it is, there's no shock or surprise with the name Beatrix Kiddo, and this name doesn't justify the bleeps that have kept it secret from us throughout the movie.
But back to the story. Budd asks Elle for the million dollars she's offered for the Bride's Hanzo sword. Elle hands him a suitcase. Budd opens it, to see several stacks of thousand dollar bills. Budd pulls out one of the stacks, only to find a black mamba snake resting beneath it.
The snake strikes Budd twice in the face and once in the forearm. He drops to the floor. Elle goes on to describe the poison qualities of a black mamba. In short, you have slim chance of survival with just one bite, let alone three. As Budd's face swells, Elle relates that despite her hatred for her, she's always respected the Bride, and she can't believe she was murdered by a scumbag like Budd.
Elle waits for Budd to die, then takes the Bride's Hanzo sword. She gets in a quick fight with the mamba snake, which now tries to attack her. She finishes it off savagely. Elle opens the front door to leave, only to see the Bride outside the door, in mid-air, headed her way with a flying kick. This begins a huge martial arts fight between the two women, in Budd's cramped trailer. The fight ends with the Bride tossing Elle outside.
Telling Elle to wait a moment, the Bride ransacks Budd's place, searching for something. She finds it, beneath his bed: the Hanzo sword Bill bought him, the one Budd claimed to have sold. The Bride leaps outside and engages Elle in another lengthy sword fight, Elle using the Bride's former sword, the Bride using Budd's.
You guessed it, the Bride emerges victorious, slicing Elle's throat after a lengthy Spaghetti Western-type showdown between the two women. In yet another moment lifted from "Shogun Assassin" (and the original "Baby Cart" movies that film was cobbled together from), Elle stands dying, a mist of blood spraying out of her neck. She puts her hand to the blood and calmly says, "Wow. It feels so good. It's so warm." Elle dies, and the Bride buries her in Paula Shultz's grave, carving her name into the cross with her SOG knife.
Chapter Nine: The Blood-Splattered Bride
The final chapter of the screenplay. We finally pick up after the events shown in the Prologue, with the Bride driving her Karman Ghia toward Bill's Mexican villa. Now, I have given away major plot events throughout this review, but I just can't give away the ending. Not that anything majorly unexpected happens (the Bride fights Bill, duh), it's just that I think it's wrong to give away endings to stories.
This chapter, more than any other, has some twists and turns. The Bride is confronted with a few surprises that nearly devastate her, and will no doubt surprise the audience. But I won't give away any of these surprises. The Bride and Bill have a verbal spar before their physical one, in which we finally learn why the Bride was attacked on her wedding day. Basically, she tried to quit being an assassin, moved to LA, and attempted to start a new life. Bill got jealous and didn't like that idea at all.
One thing I will relate from this chapter is one of the most enjoyable sequences in the script. This sequence also gets the best line. The Bride tells Bill about her last job, the one that made her decide to quit the life. We get to see this last job. Sent by Bill to LA to kill a Korean woman, the Bride, in her hotel room, gets morning sickness. She takes a pregnancy test, finds out that she is pregnant.
Somehow, this Korean target finds out that the Bride is in town. She sends her sister, Karen Wong, over to kill the Bride. Karen Wong arrives in the Bride's room just after she's found out she's pregnant. Wong blasts her way into the room with a shotgun, and the two women go at it. But here we get to see the Bride plead for her life. Not because she's afraid for her own life, but because she's afraid for her child's.
This leads to a very well-done scene where the Bride tries to convince Karen Wong that she is in fact pregnant, and, due to this, wants to immediately quit the assassin life. Therefore, she no longer plans to kill Karen's sister. It's during this scene that Karen gets the best line in the script: "You fucked with the Wong sisters."
The last battle of course features the Bride and Bill going at it, very old-school style, on a beach at dawn. Sword to sword. This fight doesn't match the grandiosity of the House of Blue Leaves battle, but it does provide a suitable ending to the Bride and Bill feud. It also provides a satisfying end to the story as a whole, and I'd say this is probably the strongest chapter in the script, character, story, and plot-wise.
It goes without saying that I'm looking forward to Kill Bill. But I'm convinced it's not going to be well-received. Not only is it nowhere as mainstream as anything else Tarantino has done, it's also downright bizarre and tedious, unless you're into B-movies, kung-fu flicks, and samurai films. And the only problem with that is, most of those people out there who like those types of movies despise Tarantino, because they feel he's stolen from the films they love. Well, those Hong Kong film purists who thought "Reservoir Dogs" ripped off "City on Fire" are going to orgasm with rage over Kill Bill. It takes freely from dozens of movies, and just about every scene seems to have been inspired by another movie.
It's an action-packed story, for sure. I can't wait to see these battles on screen. But perhaps there is too much action, and too little plot or character development. This will kill the movie, and relegate it to the status of those films it emulates: an obscure B-movie. Tarantino's other films are so well regarded because of their intricacies and well-defined characters. There is none of that in Kill Bill. The film is as straight-edged as you can get, with most of the characters nothing more than blank slates waiting to get killed by the Bride.
For that matter, the Bride is a blank slate herself. We don't learn much about her throughout the movie. We don't learn what she feels, thinks, or believes about anything, other than murdering her former comrades. We don't even learn how she felt about them in the past, even though they were apparently her friends (except for Elle, of course, and even that rivalry is underdeveloped). Therefore, you really feel nothing for her. Her triumphs are rendered meaningless, because she's such a one-dimensional character. And am I the only one who's sick of tough-girl characters? Ever since the success of "Buffy," it seems like every movie and TV show has to cram another ass-kicking heroine down our throat. It's getting old, and Kill Bill just continues the trend.
Most reviews on the Web have either been written by older, trying-real-hard-to-be-elitist reviewers who hate the script, or younger reviewers who basically ejaculate all over it. I'm 27, so I'm right in the middle. I grew up watching the movies Kill Bill was derived from. As a matter of fact, I still watch them. Even today, if you asked me if I'd rather watch "Chinese Super Ninjas" (the greatest Shaw Brothers movie ever, in my opinion) or the latest Tom Cruise vanity picture, "Super Ninjas" is going to win every time. Therefore, Kill Bill is right up my alley. But I am still objective enough to see that there are a lot of problems with this script.
Like I wrote above, Kill Bill is long from being completed. But I'm betting it's going to be released to much fanfare, and will die a quick death soon after. The general audience will have a hard time relating to its one-track, violent mind. And then the movie will collect dust for several years, viewed and enjoyed either by QT fanatics (who will claim it his most "misunderstood" film) or hardcore action junkies. But I can tell you right now, the way this script is written, there's no way Kill Bill will live up to the anticipations of an audience spoiled by such greats as "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs," and "True Romance."
Of course, it's better than "Jackie Brown." It's also better than "From Dusk Till Dawn," the only screenplay QT's written that's similar. It's even better than Tarantino's script for "Natural Born Killers." And whereas most of QT's other flicks lack much action, Kill Bill certainly has action, in spades. As a matter of fact, it works perfectly well as a straight-up action movie, and if any other writer had come up with it, it would be fine. But this is Quentin Tarantino we're talking about. This script just seems to be missing something. That certain spark that set QT's previous work apart from everything else.
A healthy dose of black humor (for an action screenplay, Kill Bill hardly has any one-liners at all) and some character fine-tuning should fix it right up, so let's hope QT hones the screenplay as he continues filming. Don't get me wrong, though. The script still has a lot of good things going for it. Why else would I write such a long review?
Tarantino's said over the past few years that Kill Bill would be for the fans, it would be a straight-up exploitation film. Well, he nailed his objective. Kill Bill is that and nothing more.
Which is not to say that's a bad thing.