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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Back for the Kill
by Betty Jo Tucker

"Enough already," I overheard one woman complain while leaving the theater after seeing Kill Bill: Vol. 1. "Hey, I really liked it," her husband replied emphatically. "But you know I'm a Quentin Tarantino fan," he explained, as if apologizing to her. No doubt most Tarantino fans will be ecstatic over his first movie in six years. It features more than enough bloody carnage and convoluted storytelling to make up for the filmmaker's long absence. But wait, I'm talking about Vol. 1. How about Vol. 2?  We won't know until next year. Bummer!

Although I've never been bowled over by Tarantino films, I found Pulp Fiction's dialogue between Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta both clever and amusing. Unfortunately, there's not much dialogue of any kind in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. The characters are too busy chopping off heads, arms, scalps and other assorted body parts. Still, what else can viewers expect from a revenge movie that tries to blend elements of spaghetti Westerns with Hong Kong martial arts flicks? It's obvious Tarantino loves those types of movies, and Kill Bill emerges as a kind of homage to them.

Some of the visuals here dazzled me, especially the snowy combat scene between Thurman and Liu. Such stunning images and the film's intriguing background music take precedence over its plot and character development, so the movie should have been easy to follow. However, because Tarantino apparently abhors straightforward cinematic exposition, he offers us a movie with chapter titles, but then shows incidents out of order anyway. Go figure.

Now, about that plot (or lack thereof). Uma Thurman portrays the Woman with No Name (except for aliases Arlene Macchiavelli and Black Mamba) who, after waking up from a five-year coma, embarks on a killing spree to destroy the people who slaughtered her wedding party. She makes a list and checks it more than twice. "Bill," in charge of a notorious assassination team, is the one who shot our heroine in the head, but the blonde warrior plans to off everyone involved. That means characters portrayed by Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, and Michael Madsen must also face her vengeance.

In order to succeed with her deadly plan, Thurman needs a special samurai sword (doesn't everyone?). Traveling to Okinawa, she acquires the perfect weapon. Jumping back and forth in time, Vol. 1 graphically depicts how Thurman disposes of two members of the assassination group while leaving the fate of the others for Vol 2. Also to be covered in the next installment, presumably, are what happened to the bride's daughter and why her wedding party was targeted.

Do I feel cheated by having to buy another movie ticket to find out how this story ends? You betcha. Someone suggested that Miramax should give a free pass for Vol. 2 to everyone who paid for admission to Vol. 1. Excellent idea. 

(Released by Miramax and rated "R" for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content.)   

DVD NOTES: Good news about the DVD scheduled for release on April 13 of 2004. In "The Making of Kill Bill, Vol. 1," Quentin Tarantino's excitement almost leaps off the small screen as he explains how the influences of samurai film, spaghetti westerns, martial arts films and grindhouse movies became part of Kill Bill. He talks about his admiration for directors of action movies and admits he was "testing his own limits" with this production. I enjoyed going behind the scenes with the enthusiastic director more than the movie itself. Also included in the DVD package are trailers for all Tarantino's movies (the one for Kill Bill, Vol 2 will surely become a classic) and a rousing musical performance by the "5,6,7,8's," that cool women's band seen in the film.    

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