Friday, November 09, 2012
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill is a two-part film about a woman who was left for dead as she is awaken from a four-year coma to kill the man who tried to have her assassinated as well as the assassins themselves. The film is a journey into a woman seeking vengeance for her near-death experience as it blends all sorts of genres from action, samurai films, martial arts films, and westerns as playing the lead role of the Bride is Uma Thurman. Also starring Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Michael Parks, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Samuel L. Jackson, and David Carradine as Bill. Kill Bill is a thrilling and exciting epic film from Quentin Tarantino.
Kill Bill Vol. 1
After being nearly killed by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad during her wedding ceremony, the Bride is comatose as she doesn’t wake up until four years later as she decide to seek revenge for those that tried to kill her including her boss Bill. After her recovery, the Bride travels to Okinawa to meet with the great swordsmith Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) to create a sword for her. She then travels to Tokyo to go after the first of the four assassins in Yakuza head O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and her army known as the Crazy 88s. The Bride also decides to go after the assassin Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) as she’s closer to reach her target.
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Following news of what the Bride is doing, Bill decides to warn his estranged brother Budd (Michael Madsen) about the Bride coming. With the Bride reaching Budd’s trailer, she gets an unexpected surprise from Budd as he decides to take her sword and bury her alive inside a coffin. Budd calls fellow assassin Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) about the news as he plans to sell her the Bride’s Hanzo sword for a million dollars. Elle makes the deal but has a big surprise for Budd as she suddenly finds herself dealing with the Bride as the two fight it off. Finally set to go after Bill with information from Esteban Vihaio (Michael Parks), the Bride finally reaches Bill’s home as she learns something that shocks her. After that, the Bride and Bill finally discuss why all of this had to happen.
The films are essentially a two-part story of a woman seeking revenge for the beating she took that left her comatose for four years where on the day of her wedding, she was pregnant with a child. After being awoken from that coma, she decides to after the four assassins that tried to have her killed along with the man who ordered the assassination as she revealed in the opening scene of the film that the baby she’s carrying is his. The loss of what would be their child as well as being comatose for four years would drive this woman known as the Bride to go after the people that tried to kill her as it would be this big long adventure that would span through many places and blend into many different genres.
Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay, that features contributions from Uma Thurman for co-creating the Bride character, has a plot that is very simple yet he creates a story that doesn’t delve into a traditional structure. The first film is told in a non-linear style where it begins with the Bride’s confrontation with Vernita Green that is a short but a very poignant scene that reveals a lot about Green and what she’s become. It’s a moment where the Bride shows some remorse for her actions as the first film moves into very different scenes that includes a back story about O-Ren Ishii told in an animated sequence about how she became an assassin after the death of her family in the hands of a Yakuza lord. Another character that is presented in the first half of the story, aside from Hattori Hanzo, is Ishii’s right-hand woman Sofie Fatale (Julie Dreyfus) who was also present at massacre.
While Tarantino employs a non-linear narrative structure for the most of the first film, it’s restrained for the second film where he begins the story with the wedding rehearsal that Bill attends that would lead to the attack. It also reveals more about the other assassins in Budd and Elle Driver where the former has become a broken-down bouncer for a strip club. Another element that is revealed in the second film is a story about the Bride’s training with a cruel martial arts teacher named Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). Once the story progresses where the Bride finally reaches Bill, a twist is revealed that would impact everything the Bride had gone through where she and Bill finally have their own confrontation. Notably as it revealed why the Bride left Bill in the first place during an assignment.
It’s not just the structure and the stylish dialogue that makes Tarantino’s screenplay so interesting but also the way he creates the characters. Tarantino does give each assassin each time to establish their characters where O-Ren Ishii is a Yakuza lord, Vernita Green is a mother, Budd is a broken-down strip club bouncer who lives in a trailer in Texas, and Elle Driver who is still an assassin that is very close to Bill. Each have their own history with the Bride which does create some complications for the way she deals with her enemies though there are those that she just truly despises. When it comes to Bill, Bill is not a traditional antagonist as he’s someone who truly cherishes the Bride as what he did to her was part of who he is as a killer.
Tarantino’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the presentation he wants to create for both films. The first film is largely a samurai picture with a mixture of action and suspense that includes an anime-style animated sequence to reveal the story of O-Ren Ishii. Through some very stylish shots for the fight scenes, Tarantino captures the intensity of the fights including the Bride’s battle with the Crazy 88s as it includes some beautiful moments such as the fight inside a blue room. Tarantino knows when to slow things down to establish what is going on as he creates some lovely moments for scenes in Tokyo along with some interesting shots such as Elle’s visit to the hospital to poison the already comatose Bride.
For the second film, Tarantino employs a different mix of genres such as martial arts and the western where the latter plays out to the world of Budd and the eventual fight between the Bride and Elle. In the scenes set in Texas, Tarantino employs a wider canvas to tell the story such as the wedding rehearsal and the scenes involving Budd in his trailer. Tarantino adds an element of suspense to these moments when the Bride is set to confront Budd that is later followed by this chilling moment of horror when the Bride is buried alive inside a casket as Tarantino maintains this very claustrophobic framing as if there’s a possibility that she won’t survive. Still, Tarantino knows the Bride has to survive where he creates some very captivating moments that would lead to the ultimate confrontation between herself and Bill.
The way Tarantino directs the ultimate final meeting between the Bride and Bill definitely lives up to everything that had been expected except there’s a lot of surprises in store. There’s a bit of low-key humor but also heartfelt moments that shows that Tarantino can create something that is very innocent. This is of course followed by tense, dramatic moments involving Bill and the Bride where it’s all about why Bill had her killed and why the Bride had to seek revenge. It is truly something that is unexpected by Tarantino as he creates something that is more than a revenge story but also a love story. Overall, Tarantino creates a truly exciting yet engrossing genre-bending epic that does a lot to entertain and more.
Cinematographer Robert Richardson does great work with the very vibrant and colorful photography from the stylish looks of the scenes in Japan in the first film to the more gritty look of the desert scenes in second film. Editor Sally Menke does brilliant work with the editing to create some amazing cuts for the film‘s action along with some slow, methodical cuts for the film‘s suspenseful moments. Production designer David Wasco, along with set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and art director Daniel Bradford for both films, does excellent work with the set pieces such as the hospital room that the Bride was in plus the wedding chapel and Budd’s trailer while the Japanese scenes featured work by production designer Yohei Taneda and set decorator Yoshihito Akatsuta for the set pieces such as Hanzo’s bar and O-Ren Ishii’s home base.
Costume designers Kumiko Ogawa and Catherine Marie Thomas do wonderful work with the costumes from the Bruce Lee-inspired look of the Bride‘s jumpsuit during her battle with the Crazy 88 to the clothes that O-Ren Ishii and Elle Driver wears. Visual effects supervisor Frankie Chung does superb work with the minimal visual effects used for some of the film‘s action and fight scenes that occur in the film. Animation director Katsuhito Ishii does terrific work with the first film‘s lone animated sequence that tells the story of O-Ren Ishii‘s early life. Sound editor Wylie Stateman, along with sound designers Peter Michael Sullivan, Scott Sanders, and Harry Cohen (for the first film) plus Dino Dimura (for the second film), does fantastic work with the sound to capture the atmosphere that occurs in both films such as the sound effects in the Bride‘s battle with O-Ren‘s army as well as the chilling scene inside the coffin in the second film.
The films double-soundtrack features a wide array of music that plays up to mesh of styles of the genre. Supervised by Mary Ramos for both film soundtracks and Michelle Kuznetsky for the first film soundtrack, the first volume consists a wide range of music from genres like 60s garage rock, score music, 70s soul, and electronic music from acts like Nancy Sinatra, Bernard Herrmann, Louis Bacalov, Meiko Kaji, Isaac Hayes, Neu!, Al Hirt, Santa Esmeralda, Gheorge Zamfir, Quincy Jones, and some original score pieces by Wu-Tang Clan’s the RZA who provides a mixture of hip-hop and electronic music to play up the momentum of the battle.
The second soundtrack consists a different style of music ranging from 70s soul, pop, country, and electronic music from Luis Bacalov, Malcolm McLaren, Meiko Kaji, Charlie Feathers, the RZA, and Johnny Cash. The film also features original music by Robert Rodriguez and his band Chingon as it plays to a mixture of Tex-Mex blues and mariachi while the soundtrack also features Spaghetti Western-inspired music that largely features the work of Ennio Morricone. Both soundtracks are definitely among some of the best usage of music ever assembled for these films.
The casting by Koko Maeda and Johanna Ray is incredible for the large ensemble that is created for both films. From the first part, there’s notable small roles from Michael Bowen as the perverted hospital orderly Buck, Sakichi Sato as a man the Crazy 88s humiliate that they call Charlie Brown, Yuki Kazamatsuri as the House of Blue Leaves proprietor, James Parks as the policeman Edgar McGraw, Jun Kunimura as a Yakuza head who insults O-Ren, and Ambrosia Kelley as Vernita’s four-year old daughter Nikki. From the second film, there’s wonderful performances from Helen Kim as an assassin that tries to kill the Bride, Larry Bishop and Sid Haig as people who work at the strip club Budd works at, Chris Nelson as the Bride’s fiancee Tommy Plympton, Bo Svenson as the reverend at the Bride’s wedding rehearsal, Jeannie Epper as the reverend’s wife, Samuel L. Jackson as the organist that was to play at the wedding, and Perla Haney-Jardine as a little girl that the Bride meets.
Other noteworthy small roles include Michael Parks playing a dual role as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in the first film and Bill’s old friend Esteban Vihaio in the second, Gordon Liu as the Crazy 88s leader Johnny Mo in the first film and the cruel teacher Pai Mei in the second one, Chiaki Kuriyama as O-Ren’s sadistic bodyguard Gogo Yubari, Julie Dreyfus as O-Ren’s lawyer Sofie Fatale, and Sonny Chiba as the legendary swords maker Hattori Hanzo. In the roles of the former DiVAS assassination team, there’s brilliant performances from Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Greene who tries to make amends with the Bride, Lucy Liu as the skilled yet darkly-humored O-Ren Ishii who has a unique history with the Bride, Michael Madsen as Bill’s broken-down brother Budd who is filled with a lot of regret as he deals with the Bride, and Daryl Hannah as the vicious Elle Driver who seems to have a lot of animosity towards the Bride.
The late David Carradine is incredible as Bill as this very charismatic yet sadistic man who deals with the Bride’s vengeance as well as everything that happens where Carradine brings a performance that is truly engaging as he creates an antagonist that is quite likeable. Finally, there’s Uma Thurman in an outstanding performance as the Bride as a woman hell-bent on getting revenge for what happened to her. Thurman’s performance is full of complexities as a woman who has some charm as well as someone with remorse for her actions as there’s also a chilling restraint to her role. It’s definitely Thurman going all out and more as she creates a performance that is simply iconic.
Kill Bill is a magnificent two-part film from Quentin Tarantino that features a magnificent lead performance from Uma Thurman. With its amazing blend of genres, stylish production value, a killer soundtrack, and a brilliant ensemble cast that includes David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, and Sonny Chiba. Both films as one is truly an unforgettable experience as though both films does have something for everyone. In the end, Kill Bill is a phenomenal two-part film from Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino Films: Reservoir Dogs - Pulp Fiction - Four Rooms: The Man from Hollywood - Jackie Brown - Grindhouse: Death Proof - Inglourious Basterds - Django Unchained - The Hateful Eight - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Related: The Auteurs #17: Quentin Tarantino - Growing Up with Quentin Tarantino
© thevoid99 2012
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Both movies are great, even though I definitely liked part 1 a lot more and felt part 2 to be a bit of a let-down. Oh well, I'm still looking forward to part 3 and seeing what Tarantino can do with this story. Good review Steve.
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