Thursday, January 20, 2005

[Film] Kill Bill 1 & 2

**** (out of 5)
Taken together, this movie becomes an epic. Sure it's about 4 hours long - but also the scope of its action is: one hemisphere, 15 years and an answer to the question "What happens when superheroes fall out?"

This is not a movie about QT's dialogue, this is about Events. And again, some sterling use of structure. At the end of the first chapter, The Bride crosses off the second person on her death list raising the question, "What happened to the first person?" And it's that question that powers the whole first half ... one hour of building up the signficance of the duel between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii.

I'm finding, more than any of his other films, Kill Bill is a movie of great moments that I can watch over and over: Beatrix learning to punch through wood, The Bride arriving in Tokyo, that amazing pause in the duel at the end of Kill Bill 1 where we just listen to the wooden water-clock refill.

Continue reading this unedited review


As someone mentioned to me, when The Bride crosses Vernita Green off her death list, we know that The Bride won’t die for the rest of the film. As I discuss in the Structure and Feelings section I don’t see this as much of a problem.

The Bride convinces Hattori Hanzo to break his oath and forge a sword to kill Bill. Despite the momentous portrayal of this action – and the fact that it helps her along the bloody road of revenge - this katana doesn’t deliver the death blow.

While most of the villains get backstories that make them more complex and sympathetic, Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah) is simply represented as fetish-bitch goddess-evil. And it wouldn’t have been too hard to dimensionalise her; after all, she’s Bill’s current girlfriend (according to the Making Ofs) and therefore playing up her jealousy of the Bride and dependency on Bill could have easily added some interesting vulnerabilities.

QT said he wanted the fight with Elle Driver in Budd’s trailer to be the equivalent action scene to KB1’s sword-fight in the House of the Blue Leaves. Because we’ve already seen this kind of action in the first fight of KB1 (brutal action in a domestic setting, versus Vernita Green), this fight isn’t really spectacular or topping anything.


The Shaw Scope company logo at the start promises goofy fun.

Gripping opening shot of Uma as the battered bride – which immediately has a more serious tone than the logo promised.

The revenge sting that’s used as soon as The Bride sees Vernita Green (or anyone on her Death List) brings a smile to my face.

The knife fight with Vernita is brutal and terrifying – and then the tempo change into protecting the daughter provides many easy gags.

Notice how the way the Bride draws a square in the air is different from Mia Wallace’s in Pulp Fiction.

Uma seems to be channeling Clint Eastwood when she apologises to the daughter for killing her mum.

Hanzo critquing his new katana builds to becoming a tearful moment. It’s great - implies he swore off sword-making because he felt responsible for each of the deaths his weapons caused.

The first ¾ of Kill Bill 1 are subdued, pained and tragic – pierced with moments of fun and coolness. It’s only when the action hits Tokyo that the movie begins to build up lightness and energy, peaking in a sustained splatter-comedy vibe while The Bride dismantles the Crazy 88s before settling back down into its elegiac tone till (pretty much) the end of Kill Bill 2.

The emotional content of the movie is immediately proven more serious than the Shaw Scope company logo at the start promises.

Deep down, we know that The Bride won’t die. The trick is to convincingly test her and put her through hell.


[What do I think of the dialogue between Vernita and the Bride in Vernita’s kitchen?]
[What are the stakes of the movie?]


Vernita introducing her daughter to the Bride is – in a way – equivalent to Christopher Walken handing over the Gold Watch in Pulp Fiction: adults with horrible backstories talking to kids who don’t really understand what’s going on.


The slow song over the opening credits (‘My Baby Shot Me Down’) adjusts our tempo and expectations. It primes us for a long movie.

The knife fight with Vernita Green and the fight with Elle Driver in Budd’s trailer are equivalent in terms of action and intensity. I’d have expected the later fight to build more.

When The Bride crosses Vernita Green off her death list, we know what the rest of the film is about, “How did she kill O-Ren Ishii?”. This is a powerful question with a lot of twists and turns. It sustained my interest for the whole of KB1.

Because of the flashback structure that Kill Bill uses, we are constantly being reminded that The Bride won’t die. After a while, then, that stops being the stakes of the movie.

(More, later)


Anonymous said...

Yeah - I really dig that water clock filling / empty sound too ! I do think that the first movie is better than the second though. I did miss the insane amounts of killing and blood.

hix said...

Yeah, but Chris pointed out to me that the violence becomes more psychological in KB2. Specifically, I'm talking about being buried alive and the last hour with Bill, where he knows Beatrix is going to try and kill him no matter what he does, so he tries to destabilise her, throw her off balance and destroy her self-image under the guise of a 'frank and honest conversation'.

OTOH, in KB2 The Bride pulls out someone's eye and squishes it under her toe. Ick.

No, ... super-ick.

Anonymous said...

OOhhhhhh yeah. The eye thing. I think I made myself forget that.
I have a low tolerance for eye violence.
Very low in fact.
Ok - NO tolerance !

Yeah - and the buried alive thing WAS very disturbing.

But I still prefered the action of the first one.