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Kill Bill Volume One

The extraordinary Tarantino phenomenon burst upon the silver screen with the controversial Reservoir Dogs. The broad-ranging, wisecracking Pulp Fiction followed, which underlined the individual style of this scriptwriter and director. It's been a long wait since the classy, aggressive and intriguing Jackie Brown. Was it worth it?

The theological statements on the posters suggest there is no room for forgiveness or compassion when exacting revenge, and I suspect these statements are right. But the film isn't really all that deep. It's a homage to the ultra-violent kung-fu B movies and as such it's packed with intertextuality, much of which I expect I missed.

All the Tarentino-isms are present and correct. Watch out for the trunk-shot, the 'protagonist drives into frame' shot and the split-screen moments. There's also a generous splattering of foul language, monstrous violence, blood-letting and many 18-cert ensuring, sick-making head injuries. The cartoon violence is extreme, and the cartoon section is moving and engaging. There's even a range of movie-making styles, using long takes with atual acting, multi-cut pop-video style, a wild black & white sequence and more.

Tarantino tells a great yarn. Once again he uses the flashback/flashforward chapter appoach as in Pulp Fiction, with humour and belivable if utterly scary characters. Even the incidental walk-ons are given great lines and allowed to shine (especially the wicked guys in the hospital and the restaurant owner, who reminded me of the similar character in Donnie Brasco). And the soundtrack is huge, often a counterpoint to the action or tongue-in-cheek whimsy.

Uma Thurman shows greater range than the wealthy, selfish, uncaring, dancing, vastly indiscriminate drug abuser of Pulp Fiction allowed, as her she models a number of stunning outfits, plays funny scenes, turns threatening, becomes child-friendly and features strongly as a highly-skilled swordswoman. I wasn't so convinced when she does the advert for the cold sore cream, but the extreme close-ups reveal her facial features to be delicate and watchable. I do, however, need someone to explain the trick where both Uma and (in Die Another Day) Bond manage to slow their heart rate in order to deceive people listening to the monitoring machine.

There was a point when I started to wonder 'would the Bride survive/would she complete her mission/would she get away with it?' But I would have been satisfied to have these issues left unresolved and incomplete until the very last line of the script crowbarred the whole story wide open, and I was reaching once again - this time for the cash to get my Volume 2 ticket (out in April 2004). Click here to see my review of Kill Bill Volume 2.

Not for the squeamish, to be sure.


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